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Garden Edition: January

by Linda Coyner

This is the time to dream about the next gardening season and reflect on the last, whether youre sitting in an armchair by the fireplace, in a lounge chair or on the lanai. Either way, my cue to begin such ruminations is the profusion of catalogs landing in the mailbox. And as a New York State gardener newly transplanted to the Florida Everglades, I have the advantage of having a green thumb in both gardens and climates.

    I still have visions of last summers Pink Wave petunias and chartreuse sweet-potato vines overflowing patio pots and street planters.  But it was the drought in the northeast U.S. that really made last summer memorable and had a lot to do with the  seasons successesthe non-stop blooming of shrub and groundcover roses like The Fairy and Flower Carpet and the waving heads of ornamental grasses. Not surprising, many of the other success stories from last summer were also the camels of the plant kingdom buddleia; Rose of Sharon; groundcover and shrub roses like  Flower Carpet, Betty Prior, Carefree Wonder, Rugosa; daylilies (if it werent for deer), Achillea Moonshine and Summer Pastels; echinacea;  Monarda Marshalls Delight, Lamium White Nancy, to name a few.

The full casualty-count after the summer drought wont be actually known until this next growing season or even next, but I could see that even established plants, especially those that were shallow-rooted, were paying a price. In my New York garden, Anthony Waterer spirea, assorted hydrangeas, and Maries Viburnum were obviously stressed. Perennials like foxglove, lupin, ferns (even ostrich), bleeding heartlimped along or perished. I didnt know how bad it was until the pachysandra leaves actually crunched under my feet. 

Its anybodys guess whatll take off this year weather permitting, of course. Garden magazines are coming out with their picks of new introductions and award winners including All-America Selections and All-America Rose Selections (AAS, AARS), Gold Medal Plants (GMPA), CARY Awards, Growers Choice (GCA), and Ohio Plant Selection Committee (PSC). (My favorite magazine article was in the January issue of Flower & Garden; it has great photos and an extensive selection.)

Heres what tempted me the most: 

  • Red Flower Carpet rose is the latest color in this series of no-nonsense groundcover roses that bloom all growing season and are disease resistant. The Flower Carpet series converted me to a rose lover. Ive been enjoying the Pink for several years now, but theres also White and Apple Blossom. The new Rose is supposed to be deep red, and like other Flower Carpets, with a single bloom about 2 in. across. Their habit is to reach 24 to 32 inches and spread about 40 in.  Although this series is billed as self-cleaning, mine looked lots better when deadheaded regularly.  Minimum sun is best recommended is 4 to 5 hours a day. USDA zones 4-10. Available at your local nursery, recognizable by the bright pink pot or call 800-580-5930.
  • Knockout shrub rose promises to be as no-maintenance and long-blooming as Flower Carpet, only slightly larger and rounded, mounding to 3 ft. x 3 ft. The grower, Conrad-Pyle, is calling it the no fear rose. For now we have to contend ourselves with the Cherry Rednot my favorite colorbut more are no doubt on the way. The single flower is a nice size (about 3 in. across) and in generous clusters. At 2 to 3 hours, its sun requirement is even less than Flower Carpet. Cold hardy to 20F. At your local nursery.
  • Lady Scarlet is a fragrant daylily (Hemerocallis) bred to be short and stocky1 1/2 - 2 ft. Apparently shes one of a series called Lovely Lady. This Lady seems to be the shortest (2 ft.) with the largest flowers (6 in.). And fragrance is always a bonus.  Hardy in USDA zones 4-10. At your local nursery.
  • Horned poppy (Glaucium corniculatum) reminds me of a cross between an ornamental kale with the velvety texture of Lambs Ear, if you can imagine that. This plant is definitely an attention-grabber and provides great front-of-the border texture! In early summer, 24-30 in. stems emerge, carrying buds that split to reveal poppy-like flowers in shades of red, orange, and yellow. According to White Flower Farm, the seedpods that follow are long and narrow, resembling small, blue-gray pickles, hence the name. USDA zones 5-7. White Flower Farm  800-503-9624.
  • Tidal Wave hedgiflora petunias are the new introduction from the Wave petunia grower, Ball Horticultural. When planted a foot apart, these petunias are supposed to grow up18 to 22 inchesand out like a shrub. Next to a fence, theyll grow 2-3 ft. upward. Looser spacing (2 ft. apart) will give you a 3-ft. spread and a height of 10-12 in. for the Hot Pink and slightly less for Cherry. The blooms are a little smaller than the Waves. At your local nursery. 
  • Hydrangea macrophylla buttons & bows is a small shrub with large, rounded flower heads that start green and mature to deep pink with a crisp white edge. The summer bloomer grows quickly to 3-4 ft. USDA zones 6-9. Wayside Gardens
  • Tinkerbell lilac (Syringa Bailbelle) is a compact lilac thats part of the Fairytale Series from Bailey Nurseries.  It has wine-colored buds that open to deep-pink blooms. This lilac combines the growth habit from the Dwarf Korean lilacloose flowers, short stature, late bloom-timewith the pink flowers of Superba. The grower describes its fragrance as magnificent and all its own.  USDA zones 3-7. At your local nursery or see  Color With
  • Blue and gold spiderwort (Tradescantia) is a perennial that promises mounds of stunning, brilliant gold foliage. As if that werent enough, the gold foliage is crowned with large, deep blue flowers most of the season. Height: 15 in. USDA zone 5. If only they could engineer a spiderwort that stands up all season. Heronswood Nursery.
  • Western arborvitae (Thuja plicata) Spring Grove is an evergreen with dark, glossy green foliage. Its fast growing to 20 ft. in a pyramidal shape, making it good for privacy hedges. Also resistant to bagworms, a serious problem with arborvitae. Wayside Gardens, 800-845-1124.
  • Rose of Sharon Chiffon (Hibiscus syriacus). This is definitely not your mothers rose of sharon! Its large, single blooms have ruffled petals and frilly centers, resembling an anemone. The latest report is that we should have lavender and white Chiffons by fall of 2000 but more colors are on the way. Height: 8-12 ft., USDA zone 5. Wayside Gardens, 800-845-1124, ; and Spring Hill Nursery, 800-582-8527.
  • Weigela florida Alexandra Wine & Roses.  Besides reddish pink flowers, this weigela has dark burgundy leaves that extend the season beyond flowering. Cuttings of the colorful foliage should make nice additions to flower arrangements. Locate in full sun for the best color. Height: 3-5 ft.  USDA zones 4-9. At your local nursery. 
  • Echinacea  purpurea Kims Knee High is a purple cone flower introduced by Sunny Border in 1999 but then taken off the market briefly when there was concern about its maintaining a 15-18 in. height, which is a foot or so less than the species. Apparently some two-year-old plants grew thigh-high (30 in.). Another noteworthy characteristic is that its petals stick straight out, unlike the swept-back, less showy look thats typical of the species.  USDA zones 3-9. Niche Gardens, 919-967-0078.
  • Mateuccia struthiopteris jumbo is an extra large form of ostrich fern or fiddlehead fern. The normal height is 3-4 ft.; jumbo is said to reach 6 ft. This fern is one of the easiest to growin sun or shadeas long as theres some moisture. The bad news: This 1999 introduction sold out quickly and more plants wont be available until spring of 2001. (I for one will get on the waiting list!) USDA zone 3. Roslyn Nursery, 516-643-9347. 
  • Stachys Helene von Stein aka Big Ears. The leaf of this lambs ear is twice the size of the species. Its strongly clumping and tends to seldom flower, which is good thing since the flowers generally detract. Its described as less silver than the rest of the species. Height: 12 in. At your local nursery. 
  • Encore azalea is a twice-blooming azalea introduced by Plant Development Services Inc.Plants by Mail: It blooms first in the spring and then mid-summer. Six shrubs have been released in the Encore series that offer a range of growth and color, varying in size from dwarf and compact to large background plants with flowers in shades of pink, orange, and lavender. USDA zone 8, with protection in colder areas. Plants by Mail, 888-922-7374.
     Comments and additions to my list are welcome and are, in fact,  encouraged. Send them to my e-mail.  Ill be back next month with more garden news and thoughts .


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