perennial gardens

2017 Trial Garden Results - from Walters Gardens in Michigan Jeremy Windemuller Trial Garden Manager

Best drought tolerant perennial: Echinacea Lakota 'Santa Fe' (its grown from seed, so it has slight color variations) flowers profusely in shades of red and orange.  Its a good performer in both containers and landscape. Grows 12 - 16" tall.

Echinacea  Lakota 'Santa Fe'

Echinacea Lakota 'Santa Fe'

Echinacea Lakota2.jpg

Best heat-tolerant perennial: Sedum Rock 'N Grow 'Popstar' - a low-profile sedum that doesn't open up as it grows.  It has blue-green foliage and salmon-pink flowers.  The trial gardens manager says it is "a definite improvement over S. cauticola".  It was un-phased in their trial gardens during an extra-hot and dry summer.

Sedum  'Popstar'

Sedum 'Popstar'

Best pollinator-friendly perennial:  Salvia nemorosa 'Bumbleberry'.  Its easy to maintain since it has a naturally compact habit, but its still a vigorous grower.  About 12" tall and will re-bloom if dead-headed. 

Salvia 'Bumbleberry'

Salvia 'Bumbleberry'

Best overall performance: Heuchera PRIMO 'Black Pearl'  

"We were wowed right away by the visuals of this plant, and once we got it into production, we continued to be impressed….It truly lives up to the PRIMO name of larger, vigorous plants."  Glossy black foliage can make a container planting pop!  

Heuchera 'Black Pearl'

Heuchera 'Black Pearl'

Roy Diblik - "They share the space unselfishly"

roy-diblik.png

He had already inspired me with his book "Know Maintenance Perennials" but I had no idea how wise, cool, down-to-earth, innovative, knowledgeable, hilariously funny - shall I go on? - he is until he spoke at our NYBG LDSA meeting in December.  All thanks to Hanna Packer - shout-out to her expertise; visit her website www.hannapackerdesign.com

Migratory Bird Garden 480P4966.jpg

He talked to us about Plant Communities, and somehow it ended up being about human communities as well.  A plant community will thrive only if it has all the building blocks, including good soil and a diversity of plants to support a wide variety of insects.  Living and dying roots are what regenerates the soil.  "Remnant prairies" (untouched soil) have 18 - 24 species of plants per sq meter - all thriving and occupying their niches happily and benefitting each other.  They share the space unselfishly.  So it should be with human communities as well.

But lets move on to some of Roy Diblik's wisdom that I managed to capture:

You have to get to know the plants. It's not "fair" to the plant to ask it to do what you want it to do - you should find out what it wants to do and where it wants to be to thrive."

P.S. this is how we should treat people as well!

Pachysandra, vinca, euonymus etc are the "default landscape -

he grows 32,000 sedges in his nursery and uses a mixture of sedges as ground cover


Turf and boxwood" landscapes have no pollinators, no birds.


You don't need mulch, organic amendments, fish emulsion etc - Everything you need falls from the trees in autumn and all the soil needs is roots living and dying.


Thugs" are opportunistic - if you disturb an area they will take over - that's simply their nature

You have to put a plant community together in a way that eliminates agricultural weeds. If you can reduce the light reaching the soil to below 1000 ft-candles (or better, below 200 ft-candles) then weed seeds won't germinate.

Contractors are being paid to keep bad from getting worse

A plug will equal a 1G container in 5 weeks

Ornamental grasses sporobulus, seslaria, schizachyrium as the "grout" between the plants.  For example, Allium 'Summer Beauty' and seslaria live together fruitfully (not competitively)

He usually uses a balance of 60:40 grasses:flowering plants

Seen below: pictures of Roy Diblik's matrix plantings at the Chicago Art Institute, Chicago's Shedd Aquarium and the Lurie Garden

Lurie Garden Chicago - the interplay of sun and shadow and the colors of the grasses, with the amsonia just beginning to turn its bright yellow autumn color, is mesmerizingly beautiful to me.

Lurie Garden Chicago - the interplay of sun and shadow and the colors of the grasses, with the amsonia just beginning to turn its bright yellow autumn color, is mesmerizingly beautiful to me.

Roy Diblik at the birth of the Lurie Garden

Roy Diblik at the birth of the Lurie Garden


Roy Diblik says: "Learn about 20 plants in depth, then gradually learn another 10 or 20 - that's all you'll need" 

He creates "quilt patterns" - each module is interchangeable and they can be mixed and matched

 

Tulip 'Golden Artist'

Tulip 'Golden Artist'

Salvia 'Wesuwe'

Salvia 'Wesuwe'

Euphorbia polychroma dark form

Euphorbia polychroma dark form

Geranium 'Magnificum' from Roy Diblik's Nursery

Geranium 'Magnificum' from Roy Diblik's Nursery

Monarda bradburiana

Monarda bradburiana

The composition of your design sets up the plant community but also creates spirit and emotion

IMG_4730.JPG
Allium, Calamintha, Stachys and Echinacea

Allium, Calamintha, Stachys and Echinacea

He gave us info about some of the plants he uses: (I mostly tried to capture his own words)

  • Carex flacca ('Blue Zinger') is an example of a carex that quickly covers ground and can take some foot traffic, but when its crown touches another crown it stops spreading

  • Monarda bradburiana prefers avg to dry soil (unlike some other monardas)

  • Salvias love to mix with one another but they can't survisie getting watered 3 times per week

  • Don't use Salvia 'May Night' because it doesn't rebloom. Instead use Salvia wesuwe that reblooms constantly

  • A combo he likes: Geranium sanguineum, allium cernuum and ornamental oregano

  • Covering the growing points of perennials with wood mulch kills them

  • Northwind has an Echinacea tenneseensis hybrid that tolerates clay soil

  • Sporobulus and sedges are very natural-looking in a woodland garden; also mixtures of sedge and Geranium macrorrhizum in shade

  • Commercial prairies that are started from seed usually end up being 5 native plants living together. It will take 15 years to get a diverse/"real" prairie with 18-24 species per sq meter

 

Words of wisdom: "Sedges give you the opportunity to outsmart weeds"

One plant he mentioned that I hadn't known was Gillenia trifoliata (also Porteranthus trifoliatus).  Common name: Bowman's Root (Also known as Indian Physic or American Ipecac; sounds lovely!).  Bowman's Root is an easy-to-grow native for bright shade or partial sun and it tolerates tree root competition well as long at it has a nice layer of organic mulch.  Bowman's Root is lovely in a mass planting where its lacy white flowers can shimmer in a light breeze.  It makes a nice filler - think Gaura for shade!  A compact, rounded plant, it is topped in late spring with ethereal white flowers growing in a few loose terminal panicles, with red petioles and mahogany stems.  Clean, disease-free foliage often turns deep bronzy red in fall and contrasts beautifully with the more typical oranges and yellows in the perennial border.  Interesting form and unique seed heads persist into winter.  Great for cut flowers!

The Legacy of Pierre Bennerup The American Gardener Nov/Dec 2013

Sunny Border Nurseries

Sunny Border Nurseries

Pierre Benerup, CEO of Sunny Border Nurseries is the person who came up with the idea of selling perennials in containers!  Up till then perennials were sold mostly as bare root plants.   Like other perennial garden "greats" we know, like Piet Oudolf and Roy Diblik, Bennerup has a passion for plants and a wealth of hands-on learning.  He also had a solid background in sales and marketing, which is how he decided to plant in containers - it was sheer practicality.


In the early 1970s, perennial plants were primarily sold bareroot. Wholesale growers such as Walters Gardens in Zeeland, Michigan, and Springbrook Gardens in Mentor, Ohio, grew hundreds of acres of perennials in sandy soils and shipped nationwide to mail-order firms. In turn, the firms put their inventory into coolers until it was time to ship in spring and fall. Perennials such as moss phlox (Phlox subulata) and evergreen candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) were field-dug, thrown into two-quart wooden baskets, and placed on sale in retail nurseries, but few other perennials had the durability to withstand that kind of rough handling.

In the '50s and '60s, Sunny Border had converted a large part of its operation to field-grown production of yews (Taxus media) in order to meet the huge demand for foundation plantings created by the boom in home construction following World War II. The soil in that area of Connecticut is a clay loam, ideal for producing balled-and-burlapped yews, but not for perennials, which couldn't be dug after rains as quickly and easily as they could in the sandy soils of Bennerup's bigger competitors.

With the market for perennials expanding in the 1970s, Bennerup needed to come up with a solution. It was at this point that he decided to take the digging out of the equation and grow plants in pots.

As a wholesale nursery, Sunny Border sells to independent garden centers and directly to landscapers. Bennerup's guiding philosophy is that foliage-not flowers-is the key to successful gardens and landscapes. He elucidated this in the letter he wrote in his 2013 catalog, under the theme "Green is a color, too." Taking issue with what he terms "lipstick landscapes," Bennerup stated,

"I believe a good perennial garden is mostly foliage-various shades of green, bronze, silver, and gold. It's soothing. It's cooling." He adds, "Flower color in the garden should be savored in small portions like dessert. Too much color causes garden obesity." 
"Perennial gardening is about subtlety, form, fragrance, texture, calm, and sometimes even sound and motion; in fact, all the senses, not just sight," he says.
"I get so much enjoyment from gardening and plants," he says. "It's such a great gratification. We are connecting with the real world."

A FEW BENNERUP FAVORITES

In addition to being a fan of perennials with interesting foliage, Pierre Bennerup says his favorite plant "tends to be whatever is blooming at the moment." He does admit to affinities to certain families or genera, such as the primrose family, the ranunculus family, the genus Epimedium, the genus Hakonechloa, the genus Saxifraga, and the genus Phlox. Here are some of his favorite individual perennials, including a few introductions by Sunny Border.

Coreopsis X 'Mercury Rising'

Coreopsis X 'Mercury Rising'

Pulmonaria 'Majeste' foliage

Pulmonaria 'Majeste' foliage

Pulmonaria 'Majeste' flowers

Pulmonaria 'Majeste' flowers

Tiarella X 'Timbuktu' foliage

Tiarella X 'Timbuktu' foliage

Tiarella fall and early winter foliage colors

Tiarella fall and early winter foliage colors

Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue'

Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue'

Sunny Border combination

Sunny Border combination

David Culp, Author of "The Layered Garden", is VP of Sunny Border Nurseries

David Culp, Author of "The Layered Garden", is VP of Sunny Border Nurseries

 

 

 

Geums - plant some of these!

Geums have a color palette that complements just about any garden.  They're colorful, cheerful and easy to grow, with flowers that remind you a little of strawberry plants.  The rosette-shaped flowers are generally borne on long stems, rising above the thick clump of semi-evergreen foliage that creates a welcome, fresh presence in spring.

Yellows and oranges with some reds and apricots, their color palette is soft enough not to take center stage, but interesting enough to make you look twice.  Most geums require a soil that does not become too dry during summer, and they don’t mind a certain amount of shade.

'Flames of Passion' -  flowers vary from single to semi-double, from non-frilly to frilly, with lovely soft coral orange/pink flowers that are held above a dense clump of light green leaves. Flowers from April to June.

Geum X 'Flames of Passion'

'Mango Lassi' - This nice plant has small, semi-double yellow flowers that are heavily stained with red rendering them soft orange. The flowers are held on short stems above a mound of mid-green, evergreen leaves.  This cultivar was discovered by Grace Dinsdale on her nursery in Oregon as a sport of the single yellow flowered geum ‘Georgenberg’.  Flowers May to July.

Geum 'Mango Lassi'

'Totally Tangerine' - a soft orange in late spring that pulls together the purples and whites.  Flowers May - June, then sporadically in fall if you deadhead it.  

Geum 'Totally Tamgerine'

 'Mai Tai' - A new variety with open semi-double soft apricot flowers with neatly ruffled petals that form a rosette on short, branched stems. Raised by Brent Horvath of Intrinsic Perennial Gardens in the USA.  Flowers from May until July.

Geum 'Mai Tai'

'Prinses Juliana' is a new introduction with semi-double bright orange flowers.  Blooms April - June.

Geum 'Prinses Irene'

'Mrs J Bradshaw' - is a red cultivar - not red like crocosmia 'Lucifer', but still red enough to contrast with purple and make yellow stand out.  Blooms May - June.

Geum 'Mrs J Bradshaw'

'Lemon Drops' - is a cultivar of Geum rivale, so its flowers are more nodding than some of the other cultivars.  Its a beautiful shade of yellow, and short - growing to only 9 inches.  Flowers May - July.

Geum 'Lemon Drops''Beech House Apricot'  is a low-grower that flowers from May - July and can make itself right at home in the front of the border - only 8 inches tall.

Geum 'Beech House Apricot'

Piet Oudolf's Favorite Perennials

Some of Oudolf's favorite perennials include Amsonia hubrichtii (Perennial Plant of the Year for 2011), Stachys 'Hummelo', Sedum 'Sunkissed', Sedum 'Matrona', Rodgersia 'Die Anmutige' and Aruncus 'Horatio'.  

Stachys 'Hummelo'

Sedum 'Matrona'

Oudolf himself has discovered and cultivated new varieties of perennials, including Echinacea 'Vintage Wine', Echinacea 'Virgin' and Salvia 'Eveline'. 

Echinacea 'Virgin'

Salvia 'Eveline'

Oudolf planting plans are works of art in themselves.  His plans are extremely detailed, with repeating motifs of heights, color and foliage that vary in scale and create a rhythm.

Use these perennials in your garden - if you have the right conditions, of course - and the only other things you'll need are a few shrubs and trees and some ornamental grasses. 

"As the famous Dutch gardener Henk Gerritsen remarked in regard to Oudolf's work:  "The plants look wild.  The gardens do not.""