Check out some of these beautiful, award winning perennials!
Best New Perennial Flowers of 2017
Article Courtesy of George Weigel- http://georgeweigel.net
A showy new ornamental grass, a new dark-leafed succulent, and new disease-resistant phlox and beebalms headline the list of perennial flowers debuting in 2017.
Let’s take a look at some the best of the best of these perennial newcomers showing up now in catalogs and primed to go on sale in garden centers this spring:
Japanese forest grass SunFlare Credit: HarkAway Botanicals
Japanese forest grass SunFlare
Pennsylvania author and “perennial diva” Stephanie Cohen is a fan of the basic, compact, arching, shade-preferring Japanese forest grass (a.k.a. Hakone grass), but she’s particularly enamored by an even more compact and colorful variety called SunFlare coming to garden centers by fall 2017.
“It starts out with a colorful, showy chartreuse that blends well with other perennials,” Cohen says. “The morning sun makes the leaves glow a golden yellow with deep crimson flecks in the blades. But this little grass has one more trick up its sleeve. The chartreuse and gold mingle, and its fall flare bursts into a rainbow of color with a simmering burnt-orange and one of my favorite fall colors, burgundy-red.”
SunFlare grows 12 to 18 inches tall and does best in well-drained soil (no wet clay), ideally in morning sun and afternoon shade. Cohen also likes it for use in a container. It’s being introduced by Canada’s HarkAway Botanicals.
Fans of dark foliage will love this new drought-tough, succulent groundcover for hot, sunny spots.
“I love the foliage saturation of purple,” says Erica Shaffer, manager at Highland Gardens in Lower Allen Twp., which plans to carry ‘Firecracker’ this spring. “I can never have enough purple in my garden.”
Introduced by Michigan’s Perennial Resources, ‘Firecracker’ plants grow only about 6 inches tall in a dense, tight mound that doesn’t flop apart like some sedums.
Small pink flowers in late summer are a bonus.
Foamybells Fun and Games
For afternoon-shade garden beds, check out this new three-version series of foamybells (Heucherella) that rate as the favorite new perennial of Carleen Vorisek, the perennial manager at Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouses in Monroe Twp.
Vorisek especially likes the colorful, deeply lobed foliage of the ‘Red Rover’ variety. “This plant stays green in summer but changes to a copper-red color in the fall,” she says.
Foamybells Leapfrog, left, and Red Rover Credit: Proven Winners
‘Leapfrog’ has wider chartreuse leaves with burgundy markings (“mellowing” to green and purple by summer), while ‘Hopscotch’ has leaves that emerge red in spring, soften to green in summer, then turn bronze-red in fall.
All three varieties grow 10 to 12 inches tall with creamy white bottlebrush flowers in May. All also are coralbell/foamflower hybrids of U.S. native perennials.
Anemone Wild Swan
Breeders keep trying to extend the bloom time of perennials. This Scottish hybrid is one of the longest yet, producing its white petals with the unusual soft-lavender back sides nearly non-stop from June through October.
I saw Wild Swan in plantsman David Wilson’s Lower Paxton Twp. garden last summer, and it was happily blooming away in July’s dry heat.
Anemone Wild Swan
The plant is related to the better known Japanese anemone that blooms in early fall, but this one blooms much earlier (as well as longer) and is more compact at 18 to 20 inches tall. Anemone Dreaming Swan is also new and very similar.
These anemones are sterile and so don’t seed around. (Best in morning sun, afternoon shade.)
Liriope Purple Explosion
Liriope is a grass-like, workhouse perennial that’s usually used as a groundcover for its versatility and hard-to-kill reputation.
Purple Explosion is a new variety that turns the corner on liriope to make it an attractive bloomer, worthy of ornamental use alongside the coneflowers, lavenders and salvias of the garden.
The variety not only produces significantly more purple flower spikes than older liriopes, but it produces them earlier, longer and on stems that poke up more prominently above the bladed green foliage.
Plants grow 10 to 12 inches tall, and clumps spread slowly – no over-aggressive “runners” as some liriopes produce. (Full sun to part shade.)
Yarrow New Vintage series
Yarrow New Vintage Red, left, and Violet Credit: Penn State Trial Gardens
This four-color series of heat- and drought-tough yarrows from Darwin Perennials was one of the best-performing perennials of any kind in the 2016 Penn State Trial Gardens in Lancaster County.
The Red and Violet colors did particularly well in 2016’s hot summer, earning nearly perfect scores from trial Director Sinclair Adam.
New Vintage plants grow to a compact 12 to 14 inches tall. They bloom for weeks in late spring, then rebloom nicely in late summer, especially if you cut spent flower stalks back to the ground after the first bloom fades. (Best in full sun.)
“Old-fashioned garden phlox, while they have beautiful flowers, tend to have a short bloom time and are prone to all kinds of fungal diseases that make them look ugly much of the season,” says Bastiaanse. “Many of the new hybrid phlox that we have grown in the last couple years, including the Fashionably Early series, are really great improvements in terms of the length of time they flower and disease resistance. These bloom a little earlier, too.”
The Fashionably Early series includes ‘Princess’ (fuchsia pink), ‘Flamingo’ (lavender pink), ‘Crystal’ (white), and ‘Lavender Ice’ (lavender with a pink eye). Plants grow 28 to 36 inches tall and perform best in full sun.
Coneflower Butterfly ‘Postman’
Coneflower Butterfly Postman Credit: Plants Nouveau
This new heat- and drought-tough U.S. native offers both a short, 18-inch size and bright-red blooms as opposed to the traditional lavender-pink of coneflowers.
“Fiery red flowers and a contrasting brown cone make for a lovely combination in this compact, long-blooming addition to the Butterfly series,” says Angela Treadwell-Palmer, co-owner of Plants Nouveau, which is introducing the plant. “It’s a true red with slightly dropping petals. ‘Postman’ stands out in any planting like a red-lighted beacon.”
Treadwell-Palmer says it looks especially nice with blue ornamental grasses, white- and orange-flowered perennials and coarsely textured leaves like ‘Black Ripple’ elephant ear. Best in full sun.
“These new beebalms are mildew-free, covered in flowers, the perfect size, and available in colors to bring any outdoor space to life,” she says. “Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds can’t resist their sweet nectar and fragrance.”
Monarda BeeTrue Credit: Plants Nouveau
Varieties include ‘Bee-Merry’ (coral pink), ‘Bee-Free’ (maroon), ‘Bee-Happy’ (red), ‘Bee-Lieve’ (pale pink), and ‘Bee-True’ (purple). Best in full sun.
Lamium Purple Chablis
Ashcombe’s Vorisek suggests this Proven Winners newcomer as a colorful groundcover in shady to partly shaded areas.
She says lamium Purple Chablis has “silver-green foliage that’s attractive all during the growing season. The purple flowers add flare.”
Plants grow only 10 to 12 inches tall and bloom a long time, starting in late spring and running most of the way through summer.
“It would be a great option for shade perennial containers, too,” Vorisek adds.
Purple Chablis is heat- and drought-tough, isn’t bothered by deer, and tolerant of nearly full sun as well as nearly full shade.
Rudbeckia American Gold Rush
The black-eyed susan variety ‘Goldsturm’ is one of America’s best-sellers, but it’s increasingly troubled by a septoria leaf-spot disease that blackens its leaves many years in late summer.
American Gold Rush is a new rudbeckia variety from Illinois’ Intrinsic Perennials with much narrower leaves and far better disease resistance. It’s also debuting as an HGTV brand under the name Everlasting Sun.
American Gold Rush plants bloom just as heavily as ‘Goldsturm’ with 3-inch golden, daisy-like flowers that produce over about 2 months from mid to late summer. Plant height is just under 2 feet. (Best in full sun.)
Ligularia King Kong Credit: Walters Gardens
Ligularia ‘King Kong’
If you like both dark leaves and very big ones, you’ll hit the double jackpot with ‘King Kong,’ a hefty new shade-preferring perennial introduced by Michigan’s Walters Gardens.
‘King Kong’ is similar to an existing head-turner called ‘Britt-Marie Crawford,’ except this one’s leaves are nearly twice as big – checking in around 16 inches across. They’re also leathery and nearly black.
Plants grow about 3 feet tall, produce a few stalks topped with golden flowers in summer, and do best in damp soil and afternoon shade.
Peonies are outrageously beautiful in bloom, with lush foliage all
summer long. These perennials may live longer than you do—some have been known
to thrive for 100 years. The plants require little maintenance as long as they
are planted properly and establish themselves; they do not respond well
Peonies take your breath away every
spring. They’re hardy to Zone 3 and grow well as far south as Zones 7 and 8. In
most of the country, the rules for success are simply full sun and well-drained
soil. Peonies even relish cold winters, because they need chilling for
Peonies make fine sentinels lining
walkways and a lovely low hedge. After its stunning bloom, the peony’s bushy
clump of handsome glossy green leaves lasts all summer, and then turns purplish
or gold in the fall, as stately and dignified as any shrub.
In mixed borders, peonies bloom with
columbines, baptisias, and veronicas, and combine well with irises and roses.
Plant white peonies with yellow irises and a froth of forget-me-nots; set off
pink peonies with blue Nepeta or violets.
Grow peonies in deep, fertile, humus-rich, moist soil
that drains well. Soil pH should be neutral.
The soil will benefit from the addition of organic
material in the planting hole. If the soil is heavy or very sandy, enrich
it with compost. Incorporate about 1 cup of bonemeal into the soil. Tamp
Peonies are not fussy but choose your location wisely
as they resent disturbance. Provide shelter from strong winds. Plant away
from trees or shrubs as peonies don’t like to compete for food and
moisture. Space them three to four feet apart for good
Peonies like full sun, and though they can manage with
half a day, they bloom best in a sunny spot.
Peonies are usually sold as bare-root tubers with three
to five eyes, divisions of a three- or four-year-old plant.
Plant peonies in the fall: in late September and
October in most of the country, and even later in the South. (If you must
move an established plant, this is the time.)
Peonies should be settled into place before the first
hard frost. Spring-planted peonies just don’t do as well, experts agree;
they generally lag about a year behind those planted in the fall.
Dig a generous-sized hole, about two feet deep and two
feet across in well-drained soil in a sunny spot. If the soil is heavy or
very sandy, enrich it with compost. Incorporate about one cup of bonemeal
into the soil. Tamp it firmly.
Set the root so the eyes face upward on top of the
firmed soil, placing the root just 2 inches below the soil surface. (In
southern states, choose early-blooming varieties, plant them about an inch
deep, and provide some shade.)
Then backfill the hole, taking care that the soil doesn’t
settle and bury the root deeper than 2 inches.
Tip: Don’t plant too deep! In most of the country, the
peony’s eyes (buds) should be no deeper than 1-½ to 2 inches below the
Like children, young peonies take
time to develop. They usually need a few years to establish themselves, bloom,
Peonies thrive on benign neglect.
Unlike most perennials, they don’t need to be dug and divided.
Spare the fertilizer. Work the soil well before you
plant, mixing in a little fertilizer, and that should be enough.
If your soil is poor, the time to apply fertilizer
(bonemeal, compost, or well-rotted manure) is early summer, after the
peonies have bloomed and you have deadheaded. Don’t fertilizer more than
every few years.
Help the stems. If peonies have any structural
weakness, it is their stems, which are sometimes not strong enough to
support their gigantic blossoms. Consider three-legged metal peony rings
that allow the plant to grow through the center of the rings.
Deadhead peony blossoms as soon as they begin to fade,
cutting to a strong leaf so that the stem doesn’t stick out of the
foliage. Cut the foliage to the ground in the fall to avoid any
Don’t smother peonies with mulch. Where cold
temperatures are severe, for the first winter after planting you can mulch
VERY loosely with pine needles or shredded bark. Remove mulch in
Peonies are generally very hardy.
They are prone to Verticillium wilt, ringspot virus, tip blight, stem rot,
Botrytis blight, left blotch, Japanese
beetle, and nematodes.
Many gardeners wonder why so many
ants crawl on the peony buds. They are eating nectar in exchange for attacking
bud-eating pests. Never spray the ants; they’re helping you nurture peonies
Tip: Peonies make wonderful cut flowers, lasting more than a
week. For best results, cut long stems when the buds are still