Adam Wheeler - Horticulturalist at Broken Arrow Nursery

PLANT GEEKS ARE US

That was the title of Adam Wheeler’s presentation at the New York Botanical Gardens earlier this month. He shared with us some of his favorites from the selection of plants that Broken Arrow Nursery propagates and sells.

Here’s how Adam Wheeler is described on the Broken Arrow Nursery website:

Adam started playing with plants at Broken Arrow in 2004 after completing his BS degree in Urban Forestry and Landscape Horticulture at the University of Vermont. His favorite responsibilities at the nursery include plant propagation and the acquisition and development of new plants. He is a past recipient of the Young Nursery Professional Award from the New England Nursery Association and is the current Vice President of the North American Maple Society. He loves to share his passion for plants through photography and educational outreach. As a result, he lectures widely on a variety of subjects and is also an adjunct lecturer at Naugatuck Valley Community College and the Berkshire Botantical Garden. With his spare time he enjoys cultivating his eclectic collection of rare and unusual plants, rock climbing and competitive giant pumpkin growing!

Also important to know: they grow their own Nursery stock - this is somewhat unusual and it provides you with (1) a great source of information about the characteristics of the plant and (2) assurance that the plant will be “hardy” in our area. I also had a look at their website and there are LOTS and LOTS of other trees and shrubs to love that they sell. I stuck a few of the ones I would go for at the end.

Broken Arrow Nursery www.brokenarrownursery.com

Here are some of the trees and shrubs Adam Wheeler highlighted: (Pictures appear below descriptions)

Acer longipes ‘Gold Coin’ (‘Gold Coin’ Chinese Maple)

“A vibrant maple offering up high glamour leaves that emerge with soft burgundy tones before quickly moving to rich golden-orange colors. The palm-shaped leaves are about 4" in diameter and hold their color deep into summer. Plants develop a shrubby canopy reaching 12-15' tall when mature. Availability has been limited due to the difficulty of propagation. That said, plants should be prized as they're certainly among the best of the gold foliage maples available.”


Acer X ‘Purple Haze’ - A hybrid of paperbark maple X sycamore maple

Purple Haze Hybrid Maple

“A curious and unexpected hybrid maple that combines the immaculate pedigree of the paperbark maple (Acer griseum) with the vigor and landscape durability of sycamore maple (A. pseudoplatanus). The result is a strong growing, non-weedy small specimen tree boasting three-lobed green leaves backed with a burgundy infused reverse. In autumn, flawless scarlet autumn tones set the garden afire. Plants can be expected to reach 15’ in height after a decade of effort and will certainly be valued for accent, flair and overall plant geekyness (not to be confused with gawkiness or gooeyness).”

Catalpa cultivars - he showed us one with burgundy leaves that is pollarded each year, making it more like a shrub with leaves larger than normal. It can also be left as a regular tree.

catalpa_x_erubescens_purpurea_pollard

Cornus cultivars - cultivars of Cornus florida, Cornus kousa and shrub forms of Cornus, including Cornus florida ‘Eternal’ pictured below :


Larix cultivars: Broken Arrow has quite a number of Larix cultivars, including several weeping variants. These variants can be trained into waterfalls, “Cousin Itts”, ground covers or combinations but apparently do need to be staked. One thing Mr. Wheeler told us that I for sure didn’t know (nor have seen) is that Larix is quite suitable as a hedge - got some pix from the internet …. - wouldn’t this be better than privet and maybe easier to manage than beech?


Magnolia cultivars - if you are a fan of magnolias, Broken Arrow has a whole lot of different varieties, including Magnolia x soulangiana 'Milliken' (Milliken Saucer Magnolia)

“A unique, compact selection found as a witches' broom by Greg Williams and Sue Milliken near Rhinebeck, NY. Plants are compact and dense with short internodes and a rounded outline. In spring they flower profusely with standard sized, whitish-pink flowers. A real gem likely found nowhere else!”



Nyssa sylvatica cultivars: (Really, should any landscape be without Black Tupelo in some form or another? I say NO)

Nyssa sylvatica 'Autumn Cascade' (Autumn Cascade Weeping Black Tupelo)

“An elegant, weeping selection that we introduced from Australia a few years back. Plants develop excellent red, orange and yellow fall color. If a tree form is preferred, some staking is required to develop and maintain a central leader.”

Nyssa sylvatica 'Sheri's Cloud’ (Sheri's Cloud Black Tupelo)

“Can you say amazing? That's what we said when we first saw this spectacular clone of black tupelo! Imagine, if you will, light green leaves edged with a bold, creamy-white margin! Add to that dazzling scarlet and hot pink, bi-colored fall color and you've successfully envisioned 'Sheri's Cloud'. A brilliant find from the wilds of Arkansas and a welcome addition to the growing selection of cultivars.”

Nyssa sylvatica 'Wildfire' (Wildfire Black Tupelo)

“A dazzling selection offering startling burgundy-red new growth that is present as long as new growth is being produced. Plants exhibit exceptional vigor and bright scarlet-red fall color.”

Nyssa sylvatica 'Zydeco Twist' (Contorted Black Tupelo)

“A distinct and downright cool black gum showcasing stems that twist and spin in all directions. They’re quite akin to Harry Lauder’s walking stick and are certainly not what most have come to expect from this fantastic species! Regardless, this is a striking plant for those looking for a fun addition to their gardens.”



Some shrubs of interest that Mr. Wheeler talked about are shown below, including a “fuzzy-leafed” hydrangea that deer may not eat (?? don’t know but I may be willing to give it a try since they don’t usually like fuzzy leaves)

Disanthus

Disanthus cercidifolius (Disanthus)

“An exceptionally choice and uncommon member of the witch hazel family. One of the most spectacular shrubs for fall color display. The blue-green, heart-shaped leaves transform to brilliant red, purple, and orange tones in late September and early October. After the foliage falls to the ground, intriguing, small, delicate reddish-purple flowers appear. Thrives in moist, acidic, well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. Makes a great addition to any woodland garden. 6-10'.”

Hydrangea aspera

Hydrangea aspera var. villosa (Rough Leaf Hydrangea)

“A hydrangea to die for that takes a step apart from the classic vision that most associate with this valuable genus. The long, oval leaves of the rough leaf hydrangea are greenish-blue and are covered with dense hairs that add a felted textural quality to the garden. In late summer, stylish lavender-mauve, lacecap flowers decorate the stems and create a thrilling display for an extended time. Like most hydrangeas, average to rich soil is preferred with consistent moisture though spring and summer. If happy, plants are vigorous growers forming a rounded framework to 10’ in height.”

Ilex verticillata ‘Sun Splash’ - a female Winterberry with gold coloring on the leaves and good fall color in the winter - would make winterberry less “boring” in the mixed border.

Salix species - many many willows are out there and are quite useful if you have the right place. Mr. Wheeler highlighted two willows: Silver Creeping Willow (he showed an area next to a parking lot that looked like it would be miserable lonely but was planted with a mass of creeping willow that looked beautiful and healthy and he said it was “care-free) and ‘Mt. Also’ Giant Pussy Willow - just look at the pictures of the catkins shown below and then imagine this mixed in with Black Pussy Willow - ooh la la!

Salix areneria (Salix repens ‘Arenaria’) (Silver Creeping Willow)

“A choice willow that develops a low mounding form of finely textured, felted, silver-gray leaves. Plants prefer moist locations in full sun and make ideal contrast elements at the front of a border or at the edge of a pond. 18”x 4’”


Salix gracilistyla ‘Mt. Aso’ (‘Mt. Asama’) (Mt. Aso Giant Pussy Willow)

“Magic to behold in spring when the glowing, rich-pink, felted catkins emerge from winter’s rest. The vigorous, 12-15’ male shrubs provide ample display in the garden and are equally impressive when used for cut branches. Attractive, blue-cast foliage adds color and presence to the landscape during the remainder of the growing season. This plant was previously thought to be a selection of Salix chaenomeloides but is more correctly listed as a selection of S. gracilistyla.”

Some other plants that I saw on the Broken Arrow website and that I covet based on pictures and descriptions:

Acer macrophyllum ‘Mocha Rose’ - a big leaf maple cultivar that seems to look ghostly and beautiful in the spring and reportedly has good fall color - but the main thing is I have never seen a tree that looks like this!


Acer pensylvanicum 'Erythrocladum' (Erythrocladum Striped Maple, Moosewood)

“A choice and unique selection of striped maple that is rarely offered due to its difficulty in propagation. Typical green and white-striped branches are present during warmer months. However, as cold weather commences the green portions of the branches turn spectacular shades of crimson-scarlet. The effect is amazing when set-off by fresh snowfall.”

Acer x conspicuum 'Phoenix' (Phoenix Maple)

“A show stopping maple forming a medium-sized shrub or small tree with glowing, white-striped, fire engine red winter twigs. One of the most striking plants in winter.”

“Conspicuum”: indeed!

Seems to give ‘Sango Kaku’ a run for its money!

How Cool is This??!!

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words - how difficult it really is to pull a worm out of the ground; a pinecone sculpture made from steel is a stunning echo of nature; an eagle in a pine tree near my house; Coleus ‘Redhead’ kicks butt; the amazing symmetry of castle paths and the beauty of shadows; the sheer joy and amazement of the rare wildflower bloom in the desert; the sheer oddity of “Unzip The Earth”; the simple beauty of creeping thyme between stepping stones and one of the cutest public sculptures I’ve seen

Claudia West - a wondrous and enthusiastic horticulturalist with important ideas

Rainer and West.jpg

“ It’s very simple, I usually say: Plant more of the right kinds of plants. Replace the mulch with more ecological plants—meaning native and beneficial exotic species—that will dramatically help in creating better cities. Plant more plants!” – Quote from Claudia West

Thomas Rainer Planting Design

Thomas Rainer Planting Design

Claudia West is a particularly talented and effusive horticulturalist who is also a scientist and a great speaker. She spoke at the New York Botanical Garden two winters ago and gave the audience a lot of memorable “catchphrases” – most prominently “Plants Cover Ground” – say it with me, as she said, “Plants Cover Ground”. She explains her thinking in some of the book-tour-related interviews she’s given as well:

“Plants are really the best mulch on earth. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not against using mulch at all, but mulch should only be temporary in your garden, to fill gaps between plants until they are more established… [to] suppress maybe an early wave of sun-loving weed species. But then we really want plants to grow in as they can and cover that soil on their own. So really the best and most sustainable way of gardening is letting plants be the mulch that they’re designed to be. This is how nature works, this is how plants want to grow—that’s how they evolved to grow—and it definitely works way better.”

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing landscape designers today is the need to balance beauty with environmental concerns. Public institutions and private homeowners want plantings that please the eye and reconnect us to nature, but that also reduce chemical use, filter stormwater, sequester pollutants and carbon, cool urban temperatures, and provide habitat. The answer lies in a radical turn away from conventional horticultural practices, declare landscape architect Thomas Rainer and designer Claudia West, who advocate crafting communities of compatible species that will cover the ground in interlocking layers. – “Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes” is the subtitle of their book, Planting in a Post-Wild World published in 2015. It has been described by leading industry experts as a “game-changer” and “the universal how-to guide to sustainable landscaping.”

From the Washington Post

Why manicured lawns should become a thing of the past

By Adrian Higgins December 2, 2015

Many folks, not to mention homeowners associations, cling to that model of the American yard as one of clipped foundation shrubs, groomed lawns and trees with mulch circles. Naked soil must be blanketed spring and fall with shredded mulch. Fallen leaves are treated as trash.

The real gardening world left this fusty model years ago, embracing soft groupings of perennials, grasses and specimen trees and shrubs in a celebration of plants and a closer communion with nature.

…This premise is not entirely new: A generation ago, top designers were espousing “the New American Garden” with many of the same principles, of replacing lawns and shrubbery with perennials and ornamental grasses.

What has changed at the vanguard of garden design? Many more varieties of perennials are widely available now than in the 1990s and, moreover, the approach to planting design is changing fundamentally. Rainer, West and others are promoting a shift from clumping and grouping plant varieties to mixing them in a way that occurs in nature. Discrete clumps are replaced with interplanted varieties equipped by nature to live cheek by jowl.

“The key is to pay attention to how plants fit together,” Rainer said. “To pay attention to their shape and behavior.” This involves not only their growth patterns aboveground, but their root types, which permit plants that are surface-rooted, such as many ground covers, to coexist with deep-rooted meadow flowers and grasses.

They see the garden as no longer a collection of plants but rather a designed plant community. This is distilled into three layers. In a sunny, meadow-like garden, the uppermost layer takes the form of beefier structural perennials …(and ornamental grasses). The middle layer is the showiest and provides seasonal peaks with such things as daisies, daylilies, butterfly weeds or bee balms.

The most important layer, the ground cover, is the least showy. Forget tired spreads of English ivy or pachysandra; Rainer and West are thinking of sedges, small grasses, rushes. In shade gardens, the floor layer would consist of such woodland beauties as foamflower, trilliums, gingers and Allegheny spurge.

“The approach to ground cover is, for us, the single most important concept of creating a functioning plant community,” they write. “Think about seeing plants in the wild; there is almost never bare soil.”

The ground cover not only knits together the whole plant community physically and emotionally, but also performs an important horticultural function. Soil left bare will invite weeds, so we smother it in mulch, which has its value, but we keep piling it on for aesthetic rather than horticultural reasons. This is inherently unsustainable and expensive, and keeps lonely plantings in a perpetual state of establishment.

My theme for 2018 is to highlight different “groundcovers” – meaning plants that will spread to cover bare ground but will still co-exist happily with the rest of the plants in the community. As Roy Diblik says: “they share the space unselfishly”.

EXAMPLES:

Pycnanthemum muticum (Short-toothed Mountain Mint)

is an aromatic perennial wildflower. This mint relative bears oval toothed leaves on strong square stems. Butterflies and other pollinators love mountain mint. It is excellent at providing soil stabilization as well. In summer, plants are topped by dense rounded clusters of tiny white to lavender tubular flowers. The leaves surrounding the flower clusters are highlighted with silver. (Note: some people don’t like this look). Pollinators flock to the blooms in sunny gardens with average well drained soils.

Plants tolerate clay, heat and drought.

The aromatic foliage is unpalatable to deer, rabbits and other herbivores.

This rhizomatous species will ramble and expand to form colonies. The rhizomes are shallow, though, so unwanted plants are easy to pull.

Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 4-8.

Blooming lasts for about 6 weeks

Plants grow 2-3’ tall with 2’ spread.

The mountain mints are listed on many “Top Ten Plants for Pollinators” list. The dense head-like flower cymes make this plant a pollinator paradise. Native bees, beneficial wasps, flies, beetles, skippers and small butterflies (especially hairstreaks) frequent the blossoms.

In the 2013 Penn State Extension Service Pollinator Trial “88 pollinator-rewarding herbaceous perennial plants were assessed and promoted to growers, landscapers, nursery operators, and homeowners...” Pycnanthemum muticum was rated #1 for longevity of flowers and #1 for diversity of pollinators. It also attracted the greatest number of insects of any plant. During a 2 minute time period, 78 insects visited Pycnanthemum muticum including 19 bees and syrphid flies.

Salvia verticiliata ‘Endless Love’ (Endless Love Lilac Sage)

is an outstanding selection of this Old World native sage grown for its big, fuzzy, deep-green leaves and summer-long display of large, lavender-purple flower spikes. This is a distinctive sage and very different from the nemerosa types. This superb cultivar was introduced by European plantsman Piet Oudolf.

24" tall x 30-36" wide.

Hardy in zones 5 to 9

Deer resistant, bee friendly, rabbit resistant

Full sun or Morning sun and part shade afternoon

Will rebloom if spent flowers are clipped

Stachys monieri 'Hummelo' (Betony; sometimes also Lamb’s Ear)

Excellent for flowers and foliage, S. 'Hummelo' hosts a lovely display of lavender-purple flowers atop tall, leafless stems while the stoloniferous nature creates small mounding clumps. Selected for strong flower production, plant health, habit quality and winter hardiness. A true garden delight! And a Piet Oudolf introduction and staple of many of his gardens.

Spread 18 inches

Height 18-20 inches

USDA Hardiness Zone 4-8

Deer-resistant, full sun or part shade, used as a groundcover

Unlike Stachys byzantina (Lamb's Ear), this species forms large, rounded clumps of green, long and narrow, textured leaves. It is lovely even when it's not in bloom. From early thru midsummer, sturdy spikes of lavender-rose flowers shoot up through the foliage, putting on quite a display.

Though this plant is relatively unknown to many gardeners, it makes a unique addition to any sunny border. Once you try it, you'll see that it goes with just about everything else in the garden. It is very easy to grow and deserves to be planted more widely in American landscapes.

Stachys m. 'Hummelo' received the highest rating out of 22 Stachys studied in the Plant Evaluation Trials at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The trial was run from 1998-2004 by Richard G. Hawke. Both 'Helene von Stein' (aka 'Big Ears') and 'Silver Carpet' (the fuzzy silver-foliaged “Lamb’s Ear” that we’re probably more familiar with) also received very high scores.

Building a BETTER Grass Garden

Ornamental grasses can be an important addition to your landscape, since they are deer-resistant (as well as groundhog, bunny etc resistant), not too hard to locate in the nursery trade and provide multi-season interest. You can find grass species that are tall, spiky, soft, clump-formers, spreaders, some with colored foliage, some with variegated foliage, and so on. They are fairly easy to take care of, as long as you have a good set of loppers to cut some of the larger ones back as they grow bigger.

Ornamental grass can function as an exclamation point in the design.

Hermannshof Planting Beds with autumn grasses

Ornamental grasses are the matrix in a matrix planting.

Roy Diblik planting design

Ornamental grasses can even add an almost formal element; a very modern look as seen in these views of Piet Oudolf’s design for the Scampston Hall Walled Garden


Ornamental grass for winter interest.



Ornamental grasses have deep roots, which promote healthy soil.

To be more successful, your grass garden should have a mixture of cool-season and warm-season ornamental grasses. Cool season grasses thrive when temperatures are between 60 - 75 degrees F. They start to grow in early spring and may remain semi-evergreen over the winter. They’re happy again in late fall, but in the heat of the summer they tend to go dormant and may even brown-out - something to consider as far as placement within the planted border. Warm-season grasses don’t even break dormancy until the ground temperature is above 65, and thrive when temperatures are between 80 - 95 degrees F. So warm season grasses are late starters - especially in some of the cool springs we’ve had recently. If the warm-season grasses are just sitting there doing nothing, your matrix planting may look empty and not make much sense until summer.

If you include both types of ornamental grasses, you’ll have fresh new grasses in the spring as well as mature grasses and grass flowers in the summer and fall.

WHO’s WHO of Ornamental Grasses:

Cool Season Grasses:

Briza media, Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, Calamagrostis canadensis, Chasmanthium latifolium, Deschampsia caespitosa, Deschampsia flexuosa, Elymus spp., All Fescues, Helictotrichon sempervirens, Molinia, Nasella tenuissima, Sesleria spp., Stipa spp.

Warm Season Grasses:

Andropogon spp, Bouteloua spp, Calamagrostis brachytricha, Eragrostis spp, Hakonechloa spp, Miscanthus spp, Muhlenbergia spp, Panicum spp, Pennisetum spp. Sporobolus heterolepsis, Schizachyrium spp, Sorghastrum nutans

Darrel Morrison's Article for the Ecological Landscape Alliance Newsletter: Musings on Ecology, Art and Music in the Landscape

The Ecological Landscape Alliance has the following Mission Statement:


"Advocating for responsible stewardship of land and natural resources in landscaping and horticultural practices."

From the Feb 15, 2018 ELA Newsletter: Darrel Morrison starts his article by saying:


"Increasingly, I am intrigued by the value of linking ecology and ecological processes with art and music in the design of landscapes that might be considered "ecological art."  The products of ecological art have the potential to be, simultaneously:

Ecologically sound 

Experientially rich 

"Of the Place," reflecting a sense of place 

Dynamic, i.e., changing over time"

Similar thoughts have been voiced by a number of other "ecological" landscape designers recently in books and interviews that I've read and in lectures at NYBG, including Claudia West, Thomas Rainer, Roy Diblik, Cassian Schmidt and Patrick Cullina.

This is the challenge we face as garden makers in 2018 - to capture all of these qualities in our plantings and to do it "well".  Everyone agrees that part of "doing it well" means having a real understanding of the plants you're using - to quote/paraphrase Roy Diblik from his lecture at NYBG earlier this winter, you have to use "plant-driven thought"- understand what a plant wants to do and where it wants to be so it can thrive and how fast it grows and how it spreads and so forth.  I feel its important to keep your plant palette broad - not that you have to jam tons of different plants into every design, but that you have to understand a reasonably broad range of plants so that each garden is fresh and each new idea is fresh, even though the general "ecological approach" is the same.  

Of course, no garden ever stays the same.  The key to having a "design without an expiration date"- again paraphrasing Roy Diblik - is to keep "gardening" - keep constantly enhancing and fine-tuning.  You may have to switch out some plant choices here and there, do some dividing, plant bulb layers - but in the end of the day if you've done the job well, you have a sustainable plant community.  (Until a tree falls, or there's a flood, or a new disease comes along or there's an early frost, or no frost ….Then you have to rebalance it)

So that's where we get back to Darrel Morrison's article:

He writes:

Darrel Morrison's Old Stone Mill plant community

Darrel Morrison's Old Stone Mill plant community

Part of Darrel Morrison's Gardens at the BBG - North Entrance "Pine Barrens"

Part of Darrel Morrison's Gardens at the BBG - North Entrance "Pine Barrens"

  • Ecological Soundness grows out of the selection of appropriate plant species and placing them in the micro-environment where they will thrive without the importation of resources such as irrigation water and chemical fertilizers. …They in turn serve a variety of functions, ranging from controlling erosion to providing habitat for birds, butterflies, bumblebees and other pollinators …"

  • Experiential Richness emerges from the presence of a diversity of plant species and associated fauna, in compositions that are rich in color, texture and movement. "

He goes on to say later in the essay:

  • Two other characteristics of the environment that provide a dynamic quality are LIGHT and MOVEMENT. The color of natural light changes as a day progresses, and the physical movement of the plants (and the fauna that are attracted to them bring life to them.) I never tire of seeing the wave-like motion of tall grasses in the landscape, or of seeing (and sometimes hearing) birds, butterflies, and bumblebees moving through a landscape. The direction of light changes throughout a day and a year as well. We can place plants in a designed landscape where they will, during some part of the day, be backlit, literally making them "glow," or as landscape architect A. E. Bye expressed it in a 1967 essay in Landscape Architecture Magazine, they exhibit "luminosity.""

A Darrel Morrison "created" landscape in Wisconsin

A Darrel Morrison "created" landscape in Wisconsin

He alludes to the four "characteristics of landscapes that people find engaging and attractive. These are (1) mystery, (2) complexity, (3) coherence, and (4) legibility." 

Mystery is derived from spatial form which unfolds sequentially as one moves through the landscape, revealing landscape spaces. Mystery implies that part of the scene is hidden, thus motivating people to want to see what is "around the bend."

Complexity relates to the biotic diversity in a landscape and the aesthetic characteristics which come with this diversity - e.g., colors, textures, and movement.

Coherence results from the fact that the distribution of species exhibits perceptible pattern. The tendency of many species being aggregated to a degree, leads to the occurrence of directional "drifts" of color and texture.

Legibility … relates to people's ability to "read" how they will move through the landscape, not feeling claustrophobic or disoriented. 

A Jens Jensen-inspired "signature" for Darrel Morrison is the Council Ring

A Jens Jensen-inspired "signature" for Darrel Morrison is the Council Ring

  • For "sense of place": "We are increasingly surrounded by generic landscapes, whether it is the sprawling big box stores repeated over and over in suburban environments, or landscapes that are increasingly alike, with the same, limited number of species replacing the natural diversity that may have once occurred there. … We can reverse the trend toward "placelessness" by incorporating an array of locally native species which provide cues and clues as to where we are."

  • Dynamic - the created landscape changes over time: "…Landscapes have the potential to be four-dimensional art, with time being the fourth dimension. This is because ecology-based designs are not frozen in time, but are always are evolving, with seasonal changes, growth of individual plants, and in some cases migration of species within the composition. The landscape we see in May is different from the one we see in July, or October, or December. And the landscape we see in 2018 is not the landscape we will see in 2028 or 2048. Hence, there is always something new to discover."

Words to live by - "there is always something new to discover"

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'

Horticulture Magazine - Plants We Love for 2018

Firespire  Musclewood Carpinus caroliniana 'J.N. Upright' American hornbeam  This cultivar is a small, narrow upright tree that grows to about 15' tall and 10' wide at maturity.  It develops consistent red-orange fall foliage color and is grown in either clump or tree form.

Carpinus caroliniana 'J.N. Upright'

Carpinus caroliniana 'J.N. Upright'

The Cary Award for "Plants of exceptional beauty and durability that are well suited for the New England climate"

And the two winners are ....

Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)  - This native shrub is well-suited to woodland edges and shrub borders.  It flowers in mid-July with upright panicles of tubular white flowers, and puts on a welcome show in the doldrums of July.  It prefers full sun and forms colonies by suckering - give it enough space to form a big colony (free plants!).  Its great for pollinators.

Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) - described in the award language as having "elegant blue-green foliage, beautiful winter presence and decay-resistant wood".   It needs full sun and doesn't mind moist soil.  The Cary award folks think that having so many cultivars gives us lots of form and foliage options.  BUT, I have to say I disagree with the notion that Chamaecyparis thyoides is a "plant of exceptional beauty" unless you are really fond of the "bronze winter foliage" look.  I concede that in a "naturalistic" setting it could look, well, natural.  But up close and personal, your clients will think it is dead during the winter.

GreatPlants program (Nebraska) aims to "bring superior native plants to the challenged gardens of the Great Plains".  Their choices add beauty to the garden, and also offer ecosystem services.

  • Virginia mountain mint (Pycnanthemum viginianum) was chosen as Perennial of the Year for 2018.  Described as "a stout, bushy perennial" it grows 3 ft tall and is topped with flat clusters of flowers with tiny purple spots in July and August.  It grows in full sun to part shade and tops most pollinator-friendly plant lists.
Pycnanthemum muticum (Short-toothed Mountain Mint) is not to be confused with Virginia Mountain Mint!  They look quite different - either one can be used but just make sure you know which one you're choosing.

Pycnanthemum muticum (Short-toothed Mountain Mint) is not to be confused with Virginia Mountain Mint!  They look quite different - either one can be used but just make sure you know which one you're choosing.

 

  • American hazelnut (Corylus americana) was chosen Shrub of the Year.  It grows to about 10-16 ft with a rounded, multistemmed habit.  It forms thickets and is usually found at the edge of the woodland.  It bears hazelnuts (filberts) beloved by wildlife, and can show a rainbow of fall foliage colors - combinations of orange, purplish-red, yellow and green.  Its catkins are an excellent pollen source for bees in the early spring and it's a host plant for numerous butterfly and moth species.

 

  • Bristleleaf Sedge (Carex eburnea) was chosen Grass of the Year.  Soft, threadlike leaves form dense tufts approximately 6 in tall and wide.  It spreads slowly, but forms a hardy ground cover that doesn't have to be cut back in spring.  Very useful for erosion control on slopes, as a living mulch in planted borders or in shade gardens to crowd out weeds.

And last but certainly not least: Perennial Plant of the Year for 2018 as awarded by the Perennial Plant Association: Allium 'Millenium'.  

'Millennium' grows to about a foot tall and wide and blooms profusely in mid-summer.  Bees and butterflies are drawn to the flowers, but deer and bunnies stay away.  Since it's a sterile variety, it doesn't spread through the garden by seed, and is very long-blooming (no need to set seed!).  Propagate it by division in the spring.  Sun or shade, dry or medium soil (not wet!).  Needless to say, its a favorite of Roy Diblik - that means its a favorite of mine as well.  I've started using it in most gardens, and it definitely "shares the space unselfishly".

Allium 'Millenium' Perennial Plant of the year for 2018

Allium 'Millenium' Perennial Plant of the year for 2018