Regional Picks: Best New Finds – Southern Plains

Fine Gardening – Issue 174

1. Cinnamon Girl Distylium

Name: Distylium ‘PIIDIST-V’

Usda Hardiness Zones:7 to 9

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide

Conditions:Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

The genus Distylium is foreign to most gardeners, but this group of broadleaf evergreens is gaining attention throughout the nursery trade. Cinnamon Girl is a fine-textured distylium variety with plum-purple new growth that turns blue-green as the leaves mature. A graceful arching habit, compact growth, and clean, pest-free foliage make it an ideal substitute for hollies and boxwood. Exceptionally adaptable, Cinnamon Girl™ tolerates wet soil as well as drought and heat. A no-fuss plant with gorgeous foliage, Cinnamon Girl™ is set to take the garden world by storm.


2. Firefly Nightglow Diervilla

Name: Diervilla × splendens ‘El Madrigal’

Zones:4 to 8

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide

Conditions:Full sun to partial shade; average to dry soil

Firefly Nightglow diervilla is a study in contrast with vibrant yellow blooms showering the deep burgundy foliage from spring through summer. The flowers attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Unlike other diervilla, the foliage color doesn’t fade, remaining vibrant throughout the year and intensifying as autumn approaches. This native deciduous shrub has a graceful mounding habit and is extremely adaptable, tolerating heat, drought, and humidity. For best color, plant it in full sun and limit fertilizer.


3. ‘Bandera’ Sneezeweed

Name: Helenium autumnale ‘Bandera’

Zones:3 to 9

Size: 12 to 15 inches tall and 15 to 18 inches wide

Conditions:Full sun; moist, well-drained soil

Revitalize the late-summer garden with a sneezeweed that blooms with abandon. ‘Bandera’ erupts with scores of vibrant brick-red flowers rimmed in gold from late summer into fall. The ruffled blooms fade to shades of red, orange, and yellow. A native perennial found along stream banks and damp meadows, sneezeweed is perfect for rain gardens. Rounded and compact in form, ‘Bandera’ doesn’t flop like other helenium but does benefit from deadheading to encourage repeat blooming. Pollinators will flock to sip nectar from the daisylike flowers.


4. ‘Cherry Sparks’ Penstemon 

Name: Penstemon ‘Cherry Sparks’

Zones: 5 to 9

Size: 18 to 20 inches tall and 14 to 16 inches wide

Conditions:Full sun; well-drained soil

Bigger flowers, longer bloom time, improved heat tolerance: These are just a few of the advantages ‘Cherry Sparks’ penstemon brings to the garden. Selected for flower power, ‘Cherry Sparks’ blooms twice as long as other perennial penstemons, from late May through August. You’ll love the large cherry-red blooms as much as the butterflies and hummingbirds. An upright grower, ‘Cherry Sparks’ is more winter hardy than other varieties and produces sterile flowers. The result is a dependable perennial that returns year after year without spreading through the garden.


Kimberly Toscano is a horticulturist from Stillwater, California.

Photos: #1, courtesy of Bailey Nurseries; #2, courtesy of Bloomin’ Easy; #3,; #4, Joshua McCullough

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