Category Archives: Perennials and Annuals

Herbaceous plants

Tricyrtis formosana ‘Gates of Heaven’

Just the common name, Toad Lily, sparks curiosity and invites close inspection. The delicate blossoms of this attractive cultivar of Tricyrtis formosana resemble small orchids and have distinctive spotting on the blue-violet petals. Flowering interest begins in early August, but the golden yellow foliage adds color early in the season. Plants are stoloniferous, forming small clumps 12″ high, making it suitable for the front of a border. Small Hosta such as ‘Wogon Gold’ and Japanese Forest Grass Hakonachloa macra make excellent companions.

Grow Toad Lilies in a soil that stays uniformly moist, yet well drained. The foliage tips will brown if the soil becomes too dry, and although not lethal, will make the plants less attractive. Tricyrtis ‘Gates of Heaven’are unappetizing to deer, and are hardy through zone 5-9. 

Kirengeshoma palmata

Waxbells, as Kirengeshoma palmata is commonly called, is an herbaceous perennial with a shrublike habit that adds striking foliage and sweet pale yellow flowers to the late summer shade garden. The flowering display begins in mid August and continues through September. Earlier in the season, the large maple like leaves add bold contrast to the many delicate textures that predominate in our beds. Kirengeshoma may be a little late to break dormancy in the spring, since the new shoots are quite frost sensitive, but once it finally feels the weather is safe, it quickly grows to a height of 4-5′.  With time, plants form large clumps 3-6′ across.  And if you need another big plus, the deer dislike it.

Kirengeshoma is native to the woodlands and low mountain regions of Japan and Korea, which accounts for its hardiness through zone 5.  It grows best in a rich, slightly acidic soil that is moist yet well drained. Propagate by seed or by division in early spring. We like to associate Kirengeshoma with blue and gold Hosta, such as ‘Deep Blue Sea’ and ‘Brother Stephan’ as well as late blooming Actaea ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ .

Buy online

Ruellia brittoniana ‘Purple Showers’

Sometimes your garden needs something tall, something blue. The abundant display of summer perennials laden with yellow daisy-like flowers begs for plant selections which offer dark contrast.

A “temperennial” here in zone 6, Tall Mexican Petunia won’t winter over outdoors for us, but it certainly will in zones 8-10. Still, we always make room for it in our gardens and also use it in container combinations where the tall 3-4′ purple stalks are clothed with narrow dark green purple tinted foliage. The continuous display of violet blue funnel shaped flowers extend on short stems from the leaf axils, and attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Ruellia ‘Purple Showers’ does enjoy evenly moist soil, and will even grow well along a pond?s edge or in low standing water, a situation that can be challenging. This does not mean it won?t grow in average soil conditions, for it will, but it does not want to fry.  Southern nursery catalogs list Ruellia as an evergreen shrub. We suspect Ruellia may become territorial in warm climates, and should be planted where its vigor is an asset.

Buy online

Persicaria amplexicalis ‘Golden Arrow’

Not all Persicaria deserve persecution. Persicaria amplexicalis ‘Golden Arrow’ is not only one of the “good” members of the Polygonum (Knotweed) family, it is an extremely handsome and versatile perennial. The first thing you should note is the golden green lance shaped foliage, which is attractive all season. Big plus. In mid summer ‘Golden Arrow’ begins to display an array of ruby colored spiky tassels, which account for its common names: Firetail and Red Bistort. The flower show continues into September, and both flowers and foliage combine beautifully with the many late summer yellow composites, as well as pink or blue/violet asters, and of course all the Salvia.

Leaf color is brightest yellow when grown in full sun, but ‘Golden Arrow’ will require a little extra moisture if the area is on the dry side. Otherwise, grow it in a well drained soil in half day sun, where the golden yellow will tint slightly more green. Foliage height reaches 18-24″, with flowers adding another 6″ or so to the plant’s stature. The spread of each plant depends on age and culture, but expect Persicaria ‘Golden Arrow’ to eventually take up 2 sq. ft. It grows well in a wide range of hardiness zones from relatively mild zone 9 through a quite chilly zone 5.

Buy online

Pilea microphylla ‘Variegata’

Expand your repertoire of container plants for shady situations. Little variegated Pilea also known as Tricolor Artillery Fern has dainty white variegated leaves, often tinted pink, which are displayed in a spray like fashion on fleshy succulent stems. Plants grow to a height of perhaps 6″ spreading to 8-10″ and work as an airy filler in container combinations. Often sold as a selection for terrariums, Pilea prefer a sunny window if grown indoors, but outside, bright shade seems to be its perfect growing situation. She needs little care except as needed watering.

Buy online

Fuchsia triphylla ‘Gartenmeister’

What a workhorse! This plant always looks terrific. Beloved by hummingbirds for his endless supply of long tubular salmon-red flowers, this upright bushy Fuchsia has handsome velvety dark green tinted purple bronze foliage. ‘Fuchsia Gartenmeister’, also known as ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’, in honor of it’s hybridizer, can reach a height of 2-3′, but can be pinched back if a shorter stature is desired, and can grow to a width of 18-24″ in one season.

We recommend growing ‘Gartenmeister’ in morning sun/afternoon shade, although we have grown this plant in a very sunny spot, where the flower supply was even more generous. Use a  rich well drained soil and keep well watered. Fertilize container grown plants bi weekly. Plants are winter hardy in very warm climates (zone 10) but can be easily wintered over indoors, should you wish to keep plants for next year.

Buy online

Pelargonium sidoides

Pelargonium sidoides

This has been one of our favorite species “Geraniums” since we first offered it in 1997. Pelargonium sidoides is native to South Africa, and herbalists may be aware of it’s medicinal qualities for colds and bronchitis. We grow P. sidoides because it is superbly ornamental.

P. sidoides has attractive aromatic silvery gray foliage, and wiry branches with wispy clusters of dark wine colored blossoms, which are continuously produced all season. It does best in full sun, and forms tidy mounds 6-10″ tall with a spread of about 12-15″ in a season. It seems to perform admirably in both cool and hot summers, and, although only winter hardy to 20 degrees F, will easily winter over on a sunny window sill.

Buy online

Phlox divaricata ‘Blue Moon’

The best selection of Woodland Phlox, in our opinion, is this lovely cultivar introduced by Bill Cullina, of Coastal Maine Botanical Garden. Abundant deep sky blue flowers on 12″ stems perfume the May garden, and when planted en masse create ethereal drifts. It makes an excellent companion for woodland poppies and late blooming narcissus

‘Blue Moon’ grows best in light shade in a rich humusy soil that is moist yet well drained, forming clumps 2-3′ across. After the blossoms fade, cut back the spent flowering stems for a neater appearance. It is hardy in zone 4-8.

Buy online

Meehania cordata

What has spring time blue flowers, grows 4-6″ tall, spreads by creeping runners, thrives in partial shade or shade in moist or drier soil? Meehania cordata, commonly known as Meehan’s Mint! This versatile and underused Northeast native is a good substitute groundcover for Lamium and Ajuga. It blooms in May and June with violet blue lipped tubular blossoms and would make a lovely underplanting for golden leaved Hosta and Hakonechloa (Japanese Forest Grass).

Although it is especially vigorous in moist soil, and would be a good choice for carpeting along a pond or stream, it will also grow well but more slowly in drier spots. It is hardy in zones 5-8 and would be a welcomed addition to a wildflower garden.

Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’

So many of the earliest spring bloomers are diminutive in size, and invite you to kneel or even lie on your belly for the best viewing. Blooming with the early Crocus, the lovely and demure Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ first appears as a pale yellow-green shoot, and then begins to unfurl to display falls and standards in the most ethereal shade of pale aqua etched with baby blue. Pastel orange-yellow markings accent the falls, and as her flower ages, ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ fades to delicious shades of blue-gray.

Although it is often sold as I. reticulata, Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ is in fact a cross between 2 species, I. histroides, native to Turkey and I. winogradowii native to the Caucasus. She is a hardy soul, surviving in zones 4-9, and grows 4-8″ tall, preferring a well drained sunny situation that gets adequate moisture in late winter and dryness in summer.  Planting and dividing is best done in the fall, but mark then spot, because she goes dormant in early summer.