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Between the Rows

Between the Rows: new flowers for 2013

Everything is new in January. New plans and new plants. Even those of us who say we can’t fit another plant into our garden and love all the plants we already have, can be really tempted when we see all those bright catalog photos.

Last year, I added Gaillardia Arizona Sun to my garden and I just loved it. It just glowed in the garden for a really long season. I am hoping it will come through the winter for another glowing summer, but when I saw the Echinacea Cheyenne Spirit mixture in the Bluestone Perennials catalog those hot shades of red, orange, yellow, purple and cream have seduced me all over. I don’t think I can resist. Cheyenne Spirit, an All America Selection for 2013 will be available as seed, as well as seedlings at nurseries this spring.

There are other new echinacea hybrids this year. Remember when there was just the familiar pink or white coneflower? No more. The Bluestone catalog lists 36 different echinacea hybrids this year! You could put together a lunch of Tomato Soup and Now Cheesier, a warm red and a Kraft cheesey gold. Tomato Soup is about 32 inches tall with a vigorous branching habit. Lots of flowers. Now Cheesier is shorter, 15 to 24 inches, but both are singles with the familiar form of the old varieties with a prominent seed head.

Then there is Leilani, a bright golden single echinacea. We have a dear friend named Leilani with a sunny personality. Her namesake flower will be a must in our garden this year. Do you ever include a flower or plant just because the name is that of a child or friend, or somehow strikes you as interesting or funny?

I remember the first time I saw the shaggy Hot Papaya. The orange red color was outrageous and I didn’t know what to make of the shagginess. Since then there are all manner of shaggy echinaceas. Secret Pride has double creamy white flowers with a crested center and Pink Poodle could easily be mistaken for a zinnia.

What all echinaceas, or coneflowers, have in common is deer resistance and drought resistance. That puts them high on my list. They are not fussy and bloom for at least a month. If you don’t cut them back in the fall those seed heads will give you winter interest, and feed the birds, at least for a while.

While echinaceas provide spectacular blooms, heucheras are all about spectacular foliage. Heucheras, coral bells, are low-spreading plants with delicate stalks of coral bell blossoms held aloft in the spring and early summer. I first started noticing new hybrids like Ginger Ale, with its unusual yellow and pink foliage, but now there are varieties in amazing colors like the new Peach Crisp. This is described as having shades of peach, amber and cinnamon, but the photo looks positively orange. The words sound delicious and pretty, but the photo is brilliant. I wonder what this plant would do in my garden? Of course, the plant description and photo don’t exactly match up; this is a problem we gardeners contend with and we just have to take our chances.

Heuchera Caramel is another variety that is nearly orange in the photo, but is a glowing orange-tinged caramel color in the gardens where I have seen it. The new Autumn Leaves is pictured and described as having bright red foliage in spring, but then maturing to taupe in summer and ruby red in fall. Apparently, variegation is not the only way to make foliage more interesting.

Annuals are the workhorses of the flower garden. Perennials will bloom for a specified season, maybe three weeks, but then it will take cutting back and waiting before there is a possible second bloom. Annuals will bloom all summer.

Standout colors are appearing in some familiar annuals this year. Superbells, or calibrachoa, is a whole family of Proven Winners annuals that have proved themselves to be a real boon, in the garden where they make great edging plants or in container arrangements. The bell shape of the blossom looks like a tiny petunia. Like the echinaceas and heucheras, these are low-maintenance plants. They bloom continuously through the summer and need no deadheading, a benefit that is called self-cleaning. Many annuals need to be deadheaded, prevented from setting seed, to keep them in bloom, but the Superbells just need to be kept watered and fed regularly if they are in a container planting. Double Plum, a rich shade of crimson, is a new variety this year and I think it will be a favorite. Of course, I think all shades of red and pink will be favorites.

We all have old favorites in our garden, but there is no reason not to succumb to a new plant or two every year, especially when they are being bred to be easy to care for, attract butterflies and birds, and are more resistant to heat and drought.

Petunias are a favorite old annual, but it has also become a trendy bi-color flower that makes for some striking effects. One of these is the Supertunia Pretty Much Picasso, with its deep violet throat and chartreuse edging, which caused a minor sensation a year or two ago. Now Picasso in Pink with its gentler coloring has arrived. Picasso in Pink is slightly smaller and more compact.

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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