Brian Minter: Exciting new perennials will whet your spirits and inspire you

Opinion: Right now, we all need something that will lift up our mood and inspire our garden for the next spring, summer and fall gardening season. Some exciting new perennials will also do the trick.

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Right now, we all need something that will lift up our mood and inspire our garden for the next spring, summer and fall gardening season. Some exciting new perennials will also do the trick.

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We have gone through a number of extreme weather events in the last year, our plants have gone through a lot of things. Overall, perennials seem to have done the most, and with our changing reality, they have become the most popular plants.

Today’s garden plants not only need to withstand significant amounts of moisture, they also need to be much more weather resistant, especially heat and drought tolerant. In addition, they need to deal with fewer diseases, be environmentally friendly, and support useful wildlife such as pollinating insects and birds.

The expectations of gardeners are also changing. We want a series of blooms, from the beginning of the season to frosts and beyond. We want our plants to provide nectar and pollen for flowering, as well as foliage and worn-out flowers as nesting material. We want less rubbing, cutting and pruning. We expect better disease and insect tolerance. Longer flowering periods are also on the mandatory list, and since many of us now only garden in containers, we want plants that go well with other plants. If you think about it, plants intended for today’s gardens need to tick a lot of squares.

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A few years ago, at a conference in Montreal, I jokingly told a group of international breeders and breeders that “to be successful, the plants of tomorrow must be extremely hardy, withstand all weather, bloom incessantly, and produce edible fruit. wild animals and we should take care of pollen and nectar, have attractive foliage and, if possible, have a wonderful scent. ” Well, as it turns out, these people already knew all this, and many of our amazing new plants today provide a lot more work.

There is a new plant family, SunFern, which is actually a Russian wormwood or Artemisia gmelinii. Resistant to zone 4a, this fern-like texture of artemisia is reminiscent of an evergreen shrub. Growing to a height of just 14 to 18 inches, it is an excellent heat and drought tolerant highlighter that combines well with other plants. Although not in bloom, the two initial varieties, Arcadia and Olympia, have attractive medium and rich dark green foliage, respectively. They received commendable criticism during last year’s plant experiments.

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Artemisia gmelinii SunFern Olympia.
Artemisia gmelinii SunFern Olympia. Photo: Ball Horticultural Company

A few years ago, I heard a rumor from the Netherlands that nepeta or catnip is considered one of the most popular perennials. Innovative breeding has certainly improved this pollinator-friendly perennial in many ways. The 24-28 inches have risen and the Whispurr series from the Dutch Darwin Perennials tough in Zone 4 is an excellent example. Both blue and pink varieties bloom from April to September. New this year is the compact (10-12-inch) N. Picture Purrfect. Its rich bluish-purple flowers open two weeks earlier than other Nepeta faassenii varieties and bloom continuously from June to September. Kitten Around is another hardy (Zone 3), low variety that grows to just 12 to 14 inches tall and has long-flowering, rock-like blue flowers. The proven perennial winner of 2021 was Cat’s Pijamas, a rich indigo blue nepeta that blooms from early summer to fall. Because nepeta blends beautifully with many other perennials, it’s not hard to see why these catnip has grown exponentially in popularity and in the number of new breeds appearing on the market.

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My favorite combination is the compact pink shrub roses with any variety of blue nepeta. If you’re up to date on color trends, the color of Pantone 2022 is Veri Peri, which can also be nicely represented by dark blue nephetes.

For a pinch of silver in the garden, last year’s presentation of Blossom of Snow edelweiss went almost unnoticed. Leontopodium has always been considered a new alpine, made for special rock gardens. However, this new variety is a fairly powerful perennial that performs beautifully in containers. In the larger cities of Switzerland, window boxes that look attractive all summer are filled with edelweis as well as other silver-leafed plants such as artemisia.

It can never be white enough in our gardens. Last April, during the perfect weather, candytuft held breathtaking exhibitions in several gardens. The popularity of Iberis is growing tremendously due to its early flowering habits and the emphasis on early flowering perennials, compact rhododendrons, azaleas and other flowering shrubs. Most varieties are resistant to zones 5 and 6. Iberis is an amazing pollinating plant and makes a good looking ground cover that grows to 4-10 inches tall. It has an attractive, slightly spreading habitus and a light, refreshing perfume. The longest flowering variety is the I. Summer Snowdrift. Hardy only for Zone 6, a little gentler but amazingly blooms from May to October. It is heat tolerant and is used as an alternative to lobularia. Iberis Snowsation has the largest flowers of candytuft and blooms from early February to April. There are many other varieties, all of which have attractive evergreen mounds as a balance for the year, all of which are valued by pollinating insects.

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Sky Blue Marvel Salvia.
Sky Blue Marvel Salvia. Photo: Ball Horticultural Company

There is also a love affair with blue sage, both as an annual and as a perennial. Unfortunately, in the case of annuals, the newer perennial salvia behaves the same as them, only better. Salvia nemorosa is a well-known, very hardy variety that has excellent resistance to heat and drought and attracts bees. The new series by the Dutch Darwin Perennials, Marvels, is worthy of the name. This series is the first of two perennial salvia to bloom from March to September. Available in three colors, Blue Marvel is the darkest, Sky Blue is a medium blue, and Rose Marvel, which has the largest flowers of pink nemorosa salvia, is a rich deep rose. The slightly taller Lyrical range extends to about 24 inches and provides four colors that can be enjoyed during the same long flowering period. Next to the two blue is a bright pink Lyrical Rose and a Lyrical White.

Another veronica also fits nicely into the very resistant perennial category. The Moody Blues series consists of six colors, and each breaks the mold by extending the flowering period from May to October. These rugged, Zone 4, compact spiked wells are very pollinator-friendly and stand up to the summer heat. Forever Blue, which is a little 18 inches taller, blooms from June to October.

When the gardens thaw and you’re ready to plant new, versatile perennials, these and many other varieties will add a lot to the color of this year.

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