Hot and Cold and More

Saturday, January 21, 2012

When I first started growing perennials everything was pastel. Very few perennials were in the hot color category. There was lots of yellow, a little bit of orange, and very little red. Things are different now.

As a result of lots of breeding and hybridizing many flowers that were formerly only found in pink or purple can now be found in red such as Echinacea ‘Hot Lava’ and Echinacea ‘Firebird.’ There are even some plants that were pure yellow that are now yellow tie-dyed with red such as Coreopsis ‘Route 66’ or Coreopsis ‘Cosmic Eye’ yellow with a red eye.

This past year another unique plant was introduced, Geum ‘Red Dragon’. Usually I think of Geums as 8” plants that like well drained soil and full sun. They are alright because they generally come in reds and oranges and you have to take that where you can get it as stated. There is a new Geum in town though. ‘Red Dragon’ is like a super Geum. The plant does 24-28” tall, has a semi double flower in fire engine red, and has recurring or continuous blooming, real nice!

In the past there were a few plants that were true red like Lobelia ‘Queen Victoria’ and ‘Fan Scarlet.‘ Just an FYI these plants are very attractive to hummingbirds. In orange there was Asclepias otherwise known as Butterfly Weed, not bush but weed , and Yes good for butterflies and a native! Growing this plant escaped me for years. The secret to growing it successfully is not treating it too good. Skimp on the fertilizer a bit and do not dress up the soil much, keep it average at best! In the nursery this one likes living where most things do not like it or will not make it. Several years ago we had one growing in the ditch out by the road but I could not grow it in a pot to save my life.

In the cool colors one of my staple plants has been Ceratostigma plumbagnoides, also known as Blue Plumbago. There are annual varieties of Blue Plumbago with sky blue flowers. The variety that we grow is perennial and has a true blue flower. I always describe it as electric blue to people. It has a little extra vibrant quality than a true blue. An extra bonus to Certostigma is from July to fall during its bloom time the foliage gets red margins and then gradually turns pure red.  As a result, I know of no other plant that does this red blue thing, you get hot and cold colors at the same time!!!

We are growing a new variety of Amsonia called Amsonia hubrechtii. This cultivar of Amsonia does a cold and hot color thing like the Certostigma. However, the blue flowers are not on the plant when the foliage turns gold in the fall. This is a great low maintenance plant for tough locations. Hubrechtii gets to be 30” tall or so. There is also a smaller variety of Amsonia that has the same attributes called ‘Blue Ice’ that only does a foot tall. The slender leaflets of Amsonia also provide interesting textural features in any garden. Do not underestimate the textural qualities of this plant they are awesome!

If you have an area that is primarily dry shade and you need a good ground cover consider Comfrey ‘Hidcote Blue.’ The foliage is similar although not as in your face as Stachys or Lambs Ears as the name some of you may know it by. ‘Hidcote Blue’ as the name suggests is adorned with masses of small blue flowers when it blooms. This is a highly competitive plant that is most useful for planting in larger areas that need a homogenous planting. In our opinion it’s not very good for that 3×3 area where you just need something. This plant does not play nice with smaller less prolific plants.

To sum up this article these are some plants that can get you out of the predictable pink, white, and purple pastel perennial pallet that are easy to grow and tough.

Here’s to another weird grow season……

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