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Design

The Best New Plants of 2020: Perennials

Fine Gardening - Issue 193
Photo: courtesy of Plants Nouveau

No flopping allowed with this summer-to-fall gem

Name: ‘Red Riding Hood’ Anemone (Anemone ‘Red Riding Hood’)

Zones: 5–9

Size: 18 to 24 inches tall and wide

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

Native range: Hybrid

We’ve seen a series of new, compact anemones hit nursery shelves lately, and this one appears to be just as lovely as the rest. ‘Red Riding Hood’ sports many dark pink, cuplike blooms on sturdy stems beginning in summer and going into fall. Once the flowers go to seed, they turn into fluffy white balls, adding yet another interesting aspect.

Introduced by Plants Nouveau

Photos: courtesy of Plant Delights Nursery Inc.

Everything you ever wanted, in one plant

Name: ‘Petit Henri’ ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi* ‘Petit Henri’)

Zones: 5–7

Size: 18 to 24 inches tall and wide

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

Native range: Europe

Why, oh why, don’t more people grow ragged robin? It’s a super tough plant, tolerating lean soils and periods of drought. It starts blooming in midspring and continues the show into fall. And, possibly best of all, it’s deer proof. ‘Petit Henri’ is another amazing option, with clear white blooms backed by burgundy stems. Plant one—you won’t regret it.

Introduced by Rozanne and Friends®


Editor’s Tip: Don’t cut it back

An underreported fact about ragged robin is its evergreen status. In late fall, don’t cut back the tuft of dark green blades. This patch of foliage will remain intact throughout the colder months, even when it’s buried in snow. In spring, simply trim it down to the ground. New growth will emerge quickly.


Photo: courtesy of Proven Winners®

They fixed what made sedum boring

Name: ‘Boogie Woogie’ sedum (Sedum ‘Boogie Woogie’)

Zones3–9

Size: 8 inches tall and 18 inches wide

ConditionsFull sun; well-drained soil

Native range: Hybrid

Yes, sedums are tough-as-nails, drought-resistant plants. And yes, they have long-lasting blooms that bees adore. But the foliage has never been all that exciting. The variegation on ‘Boogie Woogie’, however, makes us want to get up and dance. In case you’re worried that this trait might affect the hardiness (we were concerned, as well), this plant has persisted through two New England seasons here at Fine Gardening, with flying colors.

Introduced by Proven Winners® and Walter’s Gardens

Photos: courtesy of Rozanne and Friends®

A novel color for an evergreen treasure

Name: ‘Caramel’ epimedium (Epimedium ‘Caramel’)

Zones5–8

Size12 inches tall and 18 inches wide

ConditionsPartial to full shade; well-drained soil

Native rangeHybrid

This epimedium has what all epimediums have: drought tolerance, disease and deer resistance, and the ability to stick around all year. What’s different about ‘Caramel’ is the unique blossom color. Some describe it as yellow with a reddish-brown center; some say it resembles a mochachino more in hue. However you describe it, it’s still stunning. This guy tends to have more blossoms in early spring as well.

Introduced by Plant Delights Nursery

Photo: Terra Nova® Nurseries

Give your shade a punch of color with this beauty

Name: ‘Peach Tea’ heucherella (Heucherella ‘Peach Tea’)

Zones4–9

Size12 inches tall and 18 inches wide

Conditions: Partial to full shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Hybrid

Heucherellas tend to be more vigorous than heucheras and more compact than tiarellas—basically giving you the best of both genera. ‘Peach Tea’ carries on that tradition and adds a new color profile. The large lobed leaves are a pinkrust color and set the stage for late spring, white bottlebrush flowers. The color is a new hue, not often found in the shade, but we can imagine it looking divine when paired with a Japanese painted fern.

Introduced by Terra Nova® Nurseries

Photo: courtesy of Proven Winners®

Nope, it’s not a lobelia—it’s better

Name: Quartz® Red penstemon (Penstemon ‘Balquared’)

Zones6–9

Size2 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; moist, well-drained soil

Native rangeHybrid

If you’ve always wanted to grow the moisture-loving red lobelia but have drier conditions with more sun, this is your lucky day. Quartz® Red penstemon brings a novel color to the penstemon world, with it’s garnet-hued blooms. The long, tubular flowers show up all summer long, much to the delight of hummingbirds, and the lush green foliage is highly mildew resistant.

Introduced by Darwin Perennials

Photo: courtesy of Proven Winners®

It’s a textural—and colorful—wonder for shade

Name: ‘Crested Surf’ painted fern (Athyrium niponicum ‘Crested Surf’)

Zones5–9

Size20 to 22 inches tall and 28 to 30 inches wide

ConditionsPartial to full shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native rangeEastern Asia

Color, texture, shade tolerance—what’s not to love? ‘Crested Surf’ is a new breed of painted fern, with intense purple-silver-green fronds that sport adorable tassels at the tips. It really does look like a crop of baby ferns dangling off the ends. This is another plant that the FG staff got to experiment with for a season, and despite our best efforts to kill it, it persevered. If that’s not a selling point, we don’t know what is.

Introduced by Proven Winners® and Walter’s Gardens

Photo: Terra Nova® Nurseries Inc.

A geum that’s long-bloomed and space conscious

Name: Tempo™ Rose geum (Geum ‘TNGEUTR’)

Zones5–9

Size: 20 inches tall and 12 inches wide

ConditionsPartial shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native rangeJapan

Geums are another group of perennials that deserve more love. Their one draw back had been a sometimes rangy habit, but new offerings such as Tempo™ Rose are cute and compact. The salmon, red-centered blossoms appear in midspring and last for several weeks. And the fuzzy foliage makes Tempo™ Rose quite deer resistant.

Introduced by Terra Nova® Nurseries

Photo: courtesy of Proven Winners®

The supersized version of a classic favorite

Name: ‘Jack of Diamonds’ brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack of Diamonds’)

Zones: 5–9

Size: 16 inches tall and 32 inches wide

Conditions: Partial to full shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern Europe and Northwestern Asia

Most shade gardeners are familiar with the stunning ‘Jack Frost’ brunnera. Now meet its giant brother. The leaves of ‘Jack of Diamonds’ are nearly 10 inches across. This provides a larger stage for the beautiful silver and blue-green mottling to do its thing. Each leaf is a bit more rounded than the original ‘Jack Frost’ too, which makes this version even more unique.

Introduced by Proven Winners® and Walter’s Gardens

Photo: Intrinsic Perennial Gardens
Photo: Intrinsic Perennial Gardens

Interesting foliage sets this guy apart

Name: ‘Rock Star’ sedum (Sedum ‘Rock Star’)

Zones: 4–8

Size: 10 to 12 inches tall and 2 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Native range: Hybrid

Again, sedum foliage can be a bit boring. While some breeders have tried variegation to solve this drawback, others have focused on tweaking the leaf shape. ‘Rock Star’ has distinctly pointed leaves with deep notches up and down the edges. This gives the plant an interesting texture from afar. The blooms are also a darker pink than we’re used to seeing from sedum.

Introduced by Intrinsic Perennial Gardens

Photo: Rozanne and Friends®

Sturdiness accompanies these sexy blooms

Name: ‘Blacksmith’ lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus ‘Blacksmith’)

Zones: 5–7

Size: 36 inches tall and 25 to 30 inches wide

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

Native range: Western North America

The only thing that could spoil the majesty of a lupine bloom is when it flops over and breaks right at its peak. That’s not an issue with ‘Blacksmith’, which is part of the Westcountry Series, known for strong-stemmed varieties. Bees will enjoy this plant’s unique bicolor blooms almost as much as you do.

Introduced by Rozanne and Friends®

Photo: courtesy of Plant Delight Nursery Inc.

All we can say is WOW!

Name: ‘Weaver’s Pink’ hardy orchid (Bletilla ‘Weaver’s Pink’)

Zones: 7–10

Size: 40 inches tall and 24 inches wide

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

Native range: Hybrid

Although it looks exotic, this is a plant that many in the United States can grow. When we first read about this hardy orchid, we were excited at the thought of how much impact it would have in a border. Mature clumps can sport many, multistem flower branches that start to unfurl in midspring and continue blooming through summer. If you thought a perennial could never be a focal-point plant, ‘Weaver’s Pink’ hardy orchid blows that theory to bits.

Introduced by Plant Delights Nursery

Photo: Barry Yinger

An elegant addition to the canna family

Name: ‘White Tiger’ canna (Canna ‘White Tiger’)

Zones: 7–10

Size: 36 inches tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Hybrid

We admit it—cannas can be garish. The ones with variegated leaves tend to have obnoxiously hued flowers, and the ones with more subtle blooms have boring green leaves. This is a petite canna that we love for both the flowers and the foliage. The white variegation is perfectly echoed by the delicate, creamy white blooms.

Introduced by Plant Delights Nursery

 

Back to collection

From Fine Gardening #193

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