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Between the Rows

Between the Rows: new flowers

By tomorrow afternoon, Punxsutawney Phil will have told us whether we can count on an early spring. I have heard a rumor that he may very well do so. Maybe. I already know that it is still light at 5:30 in the evening. Spring seems like a real possibility and it is time to pay serious attention to the plant catalogs piling up since before Christmas.

Everyone has favorite seeds and plants, but this week I will talk about what’s NEW in the flower garden and next week I’ll talk about what is NEW in the edible garden.

Bluestone Perennials is offering a new Achillea (yarrow) named King Edward. This unusual yarrow is only 6 inches tall with pale daisy-like flowers. It makes a spreading ground cover in a sunny site and is suitable for rock gardens. Considering the dry recent summers, it is good to know this is heat and drought resistant.

I was also taken by the tall Astilbe Purple Candles. I prefer the taller astilbes and this is 3 to 4 feet tall with decidedly purple spikes of bloom and bronzy foliage. It is hardy, likes some shade, is tolerant of a wet site and does not appeal to deer. It blooms a bit later than most other astilbes, which is another benefit. Astilbes are beautiful and easy — at any height and in any color.

Plant Delights Nursery is offering Brunnera Alexander’s Great for the first time this year. Brunnera Jack Frost has become more and more popular because of its silvery leaves, delicate early spring blue flowers and its willingness to bloom in the shade. Alexander’s Great is similar but bigger, filling containers and making a dramatic accent in shady borders. A good, humusy soil and adequate water will make this stunner thrive.

Echinaceas, cone flowers, used to be only a purply-pink or white. Now, they come in a whole array of colors from deep red Hot Lava to white Vanilla Cupcake with its high center cone. Aloha has soft melony-orange petals around an orange cone, as well as fragrance. It is wonderful that this hardy, drought-resistant, deer resistant, butterfly attractor now comes in so many colors and forms.

Heucherella Dayglow Pink isn’t really brand new, but I cannot resist including a lovely plant with delicately branched pink flowers held 16 inches above green foliage with dark markings. Heucherellas are a cross between heucheras or coral bells and tiarella, or foam flower. The flowers owe a lot to their foamy tiarella lineage. They bloom in June and July, in full sun or part shade.

Quince Scarlet Storm is a small shrub, not a perennial, but because it is small, 3 to 4 feet tall with an equal spread and thornless, it would work very well in a border providing rich early spring bloom. The double red blossoms resemble a camellia, which I think makes it special. And don’t forget, no thorns.

Annuals are vital to keeping a garden in bloom all season. Perennials have their own bloom season of three to six weeks, but annuals bloom until frost and you can buy them as starts at the garden center.

I love Renee’s Seeds and this year she has a new nasturtium mix, Aloha Mix that gives you a whole range of pinks and yellow blossoms in one seed envelope. I have been planting nasturtiums as a transition between the vegetables in my early Front Garden, and the Daylily Bank. The Aloha Mix will echo the shades of many of my daylilies. In addition, the leaves and flowers are both edible and they attract pollinators.

Renee is also very aware that many people have limited space to garden, but still need to keep their hands in the dirt. She offers numerous plants that do well in containers. Her Junior sunflower is a pollen-free, dwarf branching sunflower that makes any large container into a super bouquet. Flower stalks are about 21/2 feet tall. On the other hand, if you have room, she suggests Sunzilla, a sunflower variety that can grow to 16 feet. Have you always longed to grow a giant plant?

It always pays to look at the All-America Seed Selections. All-America Selections “is an independent, nonprofit organization that tests new varieties then introduces only the best garden performers as AAS Winners.” These flowers and vegetables have been tested all over the country for dependability over the widest area. Last year, I bought Angelonia starts. This is a wonderful annual in shades of rich plum and lavender as well as white. They are sometimes called summer snapdragons and that is a fair description of the many small flowers on 1 to 2 foot stems. This year, AAS has named Angelonia Serenita Pink a national winner. It is even drought tolerant. You are sure to find the seeds or starts at garden centers.

It seems there is always a new petunia every year. AAS is offering African Sunset, which has a brilliant orange color that I can well imagine as the sky darkens over the veldt. This is a self-cleaning plant, which means no dead-heading. A plant that does not need deadheading is perfect for a hanging planter, as well as in the border. I had to laugh; the AAS website says this is a great plant if orange is one of your school colors. Any Princetonias in your family?

Next week, I’ll talk about new edibles

Garlic lovers take note

The Garlic and Arts Festival is putting together The Book of Garlic and is looking for garlic-related recipes, stories, photos, art or Garlic and Arts Festival history or memories. Submissions sent to thebookofgarlic@gmail.com will be accepted until February 15, 2014. What flavorful stories/art do you want to have included? The book will be on sale at the 2014 Garlic and Arts Festival.

Readers can leave comments at Pat Leuchtman’s Web site: www.commonweeder.com. Leuchtman has been writing and gardening in Heath at End of the Road Farm since 1980.

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