new perennials

American Gardener Magazine New Plants 2016

Excerpted from "The American Gardener" magazine - Jan/Feb 2016

New Plants for 2016

For Dendranthema fans (otherwise known as Korean mums or Hardy mums – these are the ones that come back every year but can be quite floppy and really should be pinched at least once) there’s a new, lower-maintenance cultivar.  Dendranthema ‘Pumpkin Igloo’ has a “non-fading vibrant orange flower color on a compact branching plant that doesn’t need to be pinched”.  Does well down to Zone 5.  If you’ve not used these, they bring amazing flower power to the late summer/early fall perennial border - plants are covered in orange daisy flowers for over a month.  They attract masses of late-season pollinators and are deer-resistant.

Dendranthemum 'Pumpkin Igloo' flower color really pops with other early-fall flowers and foliage.

Dendranthemum 'Pumpkin Igloo' flower color really pops with other early-fall flowers and foliage.

'Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage) is drought-tolerant and deer-resistant but can be a little too wild for some gardens.  ‘Denim ‘n Lace’ is a new cultivar with shorter upright stems that won’t flop over. 

Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Denim 'n Lace' is more compact and makes a bigger flower statement than the species - but it reads more purple catmint-colored than the bluer color of the species.

Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra (False sunflower or Oxeye Daisy) also has a sturdier new cultivar called ‘Prima Ballerina’.  This is a native perennial for the back of the border with bright yellow daisy-like flowers that attract pollinators.  Heliopsis flowers from July to October and is surprisingly deer-resistant in most locations I’ve used it.  It’s a drought-tolerant native (once established) and can tolerate clay soil.  ‘Prima Ballerina’ tops out at only about 40 inches tall and does well to Zone 3.

Heliopsis is perfect for the back of a border - it even works in front foundation plantings.

If you’re looking for something different to put in annual containers this year, look into Echeveria gibbiflora Wildfire™.  This is a 10-inch tall rosette-forming succulent with ruffled, red-edged foliage serves a dramatic visual punctuation and and would look great with ground-cover sedums in a dry, desert-y full-sun container.

This Echeveria will make the blue-toned varieties pop!

Don’t be afraid to try some of the new roses – they really are much easier to grow and maintain nowadays if you choose the disease-resistant repeat-blooming varieties.  Knock-Out roses are in every median strip nowadays – we need a step up from them in our gardens!  There’s a new David Austin rose in 2016 called Rosa ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ which David Austin has called “possibly the best rose that we have introduced to date.  It is also one of the most disease-resistant roses we know.”  It’s a 3-ft tall shrub rose that blooms prolifically with double/full old-rose style flowers and a strong fruity fragrance.

Rosa 'Olivia Rose Austin'

I hope everyone has discovered the wonderfulness of highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum).  For those without deer, blueberries are practically an ideal shrub.  They stay fairly compact (about the size of boxwood or spirea) with an interesting branching pattern.  They have delicate and beautiful flowers in spring, followed by berries that birds love (you can eat them too if you want) and then show-stopping red-orange-burgundy fall foliage color.  They don’t mind a bit of shade, and they tolerate wet feet.  And they’re native – what’s not to love?!  There’s a new series of compact shrubs called BrazelBerries® that includes blueberry varieties.  The new variety for 2016, ‘Perpetua’, is described as “a true double-cropping blueberry, setting fruit in midsummer and then again in fall.  ’Perpetua’s dark green leaves grow in a twisted form and are flushed deep red in fall, while the new canes turn bright yellow and red”.  Does well to Zone 4. 

Brazelberry 'Perpetua' is a compact blueberry cultivar that is self-pollinating.

The wonderfulness of high bush blueberries! This is the 'Perpetual' Brazelberry cultivar. Here you can see the flowers for the fall berry crop together with the fall-colored foliage.

2015 Perennial Plant of the Year - Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'

Geranium X cantabrigiense 'Biokovo' in flower

The Perennial Plant Association membership has voted and the 2015 Perennial Plant of the Year™ is  Geranium X cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’.

 ’Biokovo’ is a naturally occurring hybrid of Geranium dalmaticum and Geranium macrorrhizum found in the Dalmatia region of present-day Croatia.  It blooms in late spring with masses of 5-petaled white flowers, about ¾” diameter, that are tinged pink at the base of each petal and have darker pink center stamens.  An interesting feature is that the sepals that are redder than the petals, so that when the flower opens the lightly tinged pink flowers provide a nice contrast to the sepals and stamens.  It blooms from mid-May to late July.

G. X cantabrigiense has aromatic foliage and rounded leaf edges and is semi-evergreen in most climates.  It has a spreading habit and is rhizomatous, i.e. it spreads by sending out runners.  It grows to 6-10 inches high, with a spread of about 2 feet.  It can be used as a ground cover that spreads fairly rapidly through the perennial bed or as an edger in the front of the border.  It also does well in rock gardens.  It tolerates full sun to part-shade conditions.  Its foliage turns scarlet and orange in the fall. 

Another G. X cantabrigiense variety is 'Karmina', because sometimes it matters what color the flowers are!

Geranium X cantabrigiense 'Karmina', seen below, has carmine-red flowers.

The general qualities of Geranium species (commone name "cranesbill") include: 

  • Deer Resistant (OK, yes, nothing is completely deer-resistant; it is in many places I've planted it)
  • Many varieties tolerate some shade
  • Bloom for 4 weeks or more 
  • Rabbit Resistant (again, it depends, but in general they leave it alone)
  • Flowers attract butterflies
  • Can be used as groundcovers (low spreaders) or bed-fillers (taller varieties)
  • Need little care and no division
  • Excellent mounding habit as they first start in spring, and some varieties maintain that habit.  
  • Deeply cut foliage; flowers with interesting veining patterns. 
  • They can be deadheaded after blooming, or the tops of the plants can be sheared back to new growth to stimulate re-bloom and freshen foliage.  
  • Many varieties have beautiful red, burgundy or orange fall color that is a stand-out if the plant has been allowed to weave intself throught the garden bed.

Other types of geranium that are useful in different garden contexts, are hardy and fairly care-free include:

  • Geranium macrorrhizum (Bigroot Geranium), Z 3-8, 15-18" in height, native to southern Europe, large laromatic leaves.  Varieties include 'Bevan's Variety' and 'Ingwersen's Variety', seen in the series of pictures below:

G. macrorrhizum 'Bevan's Variety'

G. macrorrhizhum 'Ingwersen's Variety'

G. macrorrhizum fall foliage color

  • Geranium pratense (Meadow Cranesbill), Z 5-7, 24-36" tall, purple flowers from reddish veins on dark blue petals, native to northern Europe, may need staking.  Some cultivars have dark foliage; need sun for optimal foliage color.   Clump-former; blooms May – July.  Cultivars include 'Dark Reiter',  'Midnight Reiter', 'Summer Skies', 'Purple Haze', 'Mrs. Kendall Clark', 'Splish Splash'.  G. praetense does spread by seed, so it can pop up here and there throughout the garden - that may be a desirable trait if you're trying to get it to fill in, or an undesirable trait if you only want it in a certain place.

G. praetense 'Midnight Reiter'

  • Geranium sanguineum (Bloody Cranesbill) Z 3-8, 9-12", magenta flowers in spring, native to Europe and Asia, tolerates heat and drought; deeply divided leaves, bright red fall color, blooms in spring.  Varieties include 'Striatum', 'Max Frei', 'Ankum's Pride'.

G. sanguineum 'Max Frei'

  • Geranium wlassovianum Z 5-8, 18-24" tall; One of the first hardy Geraniums to bloom and one of the last to stop. Dusky violet flowers with deeper veining and a white eye. Fall brings outstanding deep red tones. Trails gently.  Will adapt to most soil conditions provided there is good drainage and some moisture. Nice massed as a groundcover, in rock gardens or as an informal edger. Completely carefree.

G. wlassovianumG. wlassovianum fall foliage color

  •  And, of course, Geranium X 'Rozeanne' seen below.  Unbelievable quantities of large, violet-blue blooms from June until frost; hardy to Z5; 20" tall with a 2 foot spread; bluish-purple flowers are heightened by black anthers, magenta veins and a radiant white eye. Fiery red leaves in autumn; withstands sunny, hot sites and is happy just about anywhere, from an exposed border to a container.  'Rozeanne' is a naturally occurring sterile hybrid of Geranium himalayense and Geranium wallichianum ‘Buxton’s Variety’.  Lynden Miller says "No garden should be without Geranium 'Rozeanne'."

Some of Mike Ruggerio's Favorite Perennials

Mike Ruggerio, one of my favorite teachers from NYBG, basically knows everything about anything related to trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and bulbs.  His talks are always both funny and fascinating – you never fail to learn about a million new things.  And you long to see what his own gardens are like!

This particular talk was on new perennials – new cultivars that fit his definition of a perennial – “a plant that comes back after more than two years”  - meaning they are cold-hardy, adaptable, easy, beautiful and for the most part long-blooming – many also deer resistant.

I’ve chosen a few that I love too, or that I’m definitely going to try.

  • Achillea ‘Oertel’s Rose’ (yarrow) is a lavender-pink, gentle form of yarrow – a nice alternative to golden yellow that fits in well with the purple/white/pink/chartreuse/burgundy garden.  I love the fresh foliage of yarrow in the spring – it’s one of the earliest.  BUT it’s a dry meadow plant – it won’t be nice if you don’t have the right conditions.
  • Actaea ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ and ‘Black Negligee’ (bugbane) are dark-foliaged cultivars of the green-leaved species.  Bugbane is wonderful in shade, with mounds of almost-black foliage and fragrant white wand-like flowers rising up several feet above the foliage in autumn.  It’s an excellent back-of-the-border choice for your shade garden.  The newest cultivar ‘Black Negligee’ has foliage that is more purple than black – we’ll see if we can get better photos this season that show it’s purple-ness.  ‘Black Negligee’ typically grows to 4-5’ tall and is a noteworthy addition to the garden for its deeply-cut, dark purplish-black leaves on branched, dark stems.  The foliage has a lacy effect, hence the cultivar name, and makes an effective accent throughout the growing season.

Black Negligee

  • Corydalis lutea (yellow corydalis) seems to have it all if you’re in the market for a self-seeding spreading deer-resistant ground cover for shade that flowers from May till frost.  It’s easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in part shade to full shade. Corydalis doesn’t tolerate wet feet, and wet soils in winter can be fatal.   It forms a mound of ferny, medium green foliage to 15" tall and 18" wide and produces bright yellow flowers.   It’s great for shaded rock gardens or border fronts and forms a nice ground cover in shady woodland areas.  Wear gloves – the sap is very irritating.
  • Echinacea purpurea ‘Fragrant Angel’ (coneflower) has taken over as “best white coneflower”.  It’s a pure white color that stays white and it’s also quite fragrant.  Don’t plant it if you have groundhogs – they’ll come from far and wide and eat every bite on the first day.
  • Hemerocallis X ‘Barbara Mitchell’ is his favorite daylily – a “true pink” flower 6” wide.  He also enthused about H. X ‘Bill Norris’, a golden daylily that grows 4 ft tall.

Hybrid daylily 'Barbara Mitchell'

Hybrid Daylily 'Bill Norris'

  • For those of you who don’t already know about Geranium macrorrhizum (bigroot geranium), here’s another shade plant/groundcover that is deer-resistant, has either white or pink flowers, spreads enthusiastically by runners, has a nice fall foliage color and is semi-evergreen in our area.  It flowers in May – June, and after that is just a mound of foliage.


  • Another geranium that he mentioned in passing is one of my new favorites – Geranium X ‘Midnight Reiter’ (cranesbill) – it has purplish-black leaves and dusky blue-violet flowers.  It goes with everything, and, like most cranesbill, spreads nicely.
  • His favorite new aster cultivar, Aster tataricus ‘Jin-Dai’ (tatarian aster), a full-sun standout that blooms in October when basically nothing else is flowering.  ‘Jin-Dai’ is a compact cultivar (believe it or not!), typically growing 3-4' tall.  (The species may reach 6-7' tall).  Distinctive almost tobacco-like basal leaves are up to 18" long and 5" wide – interesting foliage for the spring garden. Dense and abundant blue flowers with yellow centers appear in autumn on rigid stems. This late bloomer doesn’t need pinching to control height and doesn’t flop (i.e. doesn’t need staking) as long as it’s in full sun and usually blooms until the first frost.  Added bonus - attractive to butterflies!