The tour began in our perennial section. The hot pick for color right now are the Echinaceas or Coneflowers. Originally it was Purple Coneflower, but now they come in so many different colors, I’m going to drop the Purple portion. Right now there are a half dozen outstanding varieties. The first one I spotted was Kim’s Knee High. This one is the typical purple color, but it’s short. The flowers appear
huge on the short plants. They were in a display with Moonshine Yarrow and Piglet Fountain Grass (a dwarf Pennisetum). Coneflowers are native to the prairie and look particularly fine
when paired with ornamental grasses. Most of our endcap displays featured grasses with the Coneflowers. Also, as a prairie plant, Coneflowers like a well-drained soil and a sunny location. Two other varieties that stood out were Sunbird and Daydream, both in the yellow tones. Sunbird was displayed with Panicum Cheyenne Sky and Sedum Class Act ( a lovely hot pink flower). Daydream was in a display with Molinia Skyracer and Sizzling Pink Fringe Flower (not currently in bloom but having nice foliage). Our buyer really favors the Skyracer Tall Purple Moor Grass. The foliage grows 3-4 feet tall but the “flowers” (panicles) reach 7-8 feet tall. They have a lovely, airy appearance.
I mentioned Sedums and the taller growers are a great late summer color addition. They are still several weeks away from being in full flower. I planted Autumn Joy in my garden. It has a pretty apricot/pink flower. There are many newer varities and Class Act is my favorite of them. The hot pink flowers stand out over the blue-green foliage. Bees and butterflies really like this plant.
Heather (Calluna cultivars) are looking great right now, too. I think the Callunas are easier to grow than the Ericas (Heath), but there are summer flowering Ericas as well. Silver Knight is the variety that caught my eye. I actually have this one in my garden as well, but it’s the foliage color almost more than the flowers that I find appealing. It is gray foliaged. The flowers are a soft lavender.
Hardy Fuchsias have been blooming for a while but they will continue until frost and still look fresh. Queen Esther and Army Nurse are two gorgeous varieties. Queen Esther has creamy-white and violet flowers. They have a different shape or something to them, so they stand out. Fuchsias are great for part shade and the hummingbirds love them. Army
Nurse has a showy flower closer to what you would find on a hanging basket fuchsia. None of the hardy ones are quite as large flowered as the hanging basket types but Army Nurse is closest. Red and purple are the colors.
Another perennial coming into full glory is Helen flower (Helenium). We have a pretty one from Blooming Nursery called Sahin’s Early. There are so many cute button daisies atop the plant in autumn tones. It had been featured alongside Gaura Whirling Butterflies and Clethra Vanilla Spice. Clethra is a shrub for full sun commonly know as Summersweet or Pepper bush. It is fragrant. The hummingbirds and butterflies like it. Proven Winners lists it as deer resistant but I don’t have a definite confirmation on that in our area. Vanilla Spice has white flowers. There is another variety called Ruby Spice. The foliage is a glossy green that turns a nice yellow below falling off in the fall.
The last perennial I checked out was the Rose Mallow Hibiscus. They’re not quite in bloom yet, but they’ll be outstanding when they are. Sultry Kiss is a newer, red-flowered varitey. They have a tropical appearance and they’ll take damp soil. There is a hardy, shrub form of Hibiscus also known as Rose of Sharon. Breeders have been introducing new varities and the one I found I really liked is called Tahiti. Deep pink flowers with a red center. It grows 5-8 feet tall and prefers full sun.
Other shrubs for late color are Crape Myrtles, Butterfly Bush, and Caryopteris. Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) flowers come in pink, red, white and lavender. Depending on the variety they grow anywhere from 4 feet to 20 feet tall. You will often see them trained as a small tree. They like the full sun and do lose their leaves in fall but they have peeling bark which adds winter interest. The variety that caught my eye was Petite Embers. It is red flowered and shorter.
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) had been unavailable after being declared invasive in Oregon. The breeders have been at work on sterile varieties that won’t reseed, so there are several now available. I wasn’t super inpressed with the first few varieties we got in but in the last few weeks we received one called Miss Ruby which is stunning. The magenta flowers are fragrant and attract butterflies and hummingbirds. It grows 4-5 feet tall and prefers sun. Caryopteris or Bluebeard is a shorter shrub with pretty blue flowers. It is great in a mass. It’s a sun lover and the bees really like it, too.
Finally, there are some shrubs that already have attractive berries. There is a Compact European Cranberry bush with amazing coral-orange berries. The berries will eventually turn a beautiful scarlet. The bright red fall foliage is outstanding, too.
I’m glad I got a chance to get out of the office today and take a tour around the nursery. There were a lot of bees out collecting nectar. Bees make me happy. The temperature in the mid to late morning was nearly perfect and the sunlight was mellow. What a beautiful day.