Perennials are on the upswing again, and one of the reasons is that they display so much better at retail now. When I first got into this business, only the early spring-blooming perennials showed color. The rest were small green clumps. The clumps had lots of potential, but only knowledgeable gardeners could see it.
Breeders have met this challenge in spades. By breeding for earlier and longer blooming windows, more abundant flowers, and varieties that don’t need vernalization, breeders are making it easier to produce perennials that draw attention at retail.
And more keep coming. At Spring Trials this year there were many more new introductions that make growing and selling perennials easier.
Here’s a look:
Lupine Staircase series: A breakthrough in lupine breeding, this new series requires no vernalization and finishes early. Hardy to Zone 3, these cool-season plants have excellent bud count and are daylength responsive. From GreenFuse Botanicals.
Dianthus Paint the Town series: Dianthus are everywhere now and for good reason. Longer bloom times, and bright colors make it popular with consumers. The Paint the Town series from Proven Winners is also heat tolerant, allowing gardeners in southern zones to enjoy dianthus, too. Two colors are available – Magenta (single magenta flowers with a lavender center) and Fuchsia (single, fragrant, fuchsia flowers). Zone 4 to 9.
Dianthus Dianthalot series: With a long blooming time (spring, summer, and fall) this vegetative series promises to be popular with consumers. It requires no vernalization and is a low-growing, front-of-the-border plant. It has two colors: Pink + Star and Dark Red + Star and is hardy in Zones 5 to 10. From Selecta.
Heucherella ‘Plum Cascade’: It’s not only a color breakthrough in Heucherellas, it is also trailing. ‘Plum Cascade’ has gorgeous, deep burgundy foliage and is quite vigorous. Cold hardy to Zone 4, it is definitely an attention getter. From Terra Nova.
Amsonia ‘Storm Cloud’: ‘Storm Cloud’ offers more than low maintenance and easy growing. It also has striking black stems and long-lasting, light-blue flowers. A new introduction from Proven Winners, it’s a vigorous, 24 to 30-inch plant that blooms beautifully at retail. Zone 4.
Coreopsis Uptick series: Large flowers and a long bloom time make this series a standout. As a bonus, no deadheading is needed. A tidy, mounded habit – it is just 14 inches tall – make it easy to ship and use in the landscape. It’s hardy to Zone 5, and there are four colors: Gold and Bronze, Yellow and Red, Cream and Red and Cream. From Darwin Perennials.
Geum ‘Rustico Orange’: I was never crazy about geums. The flowers were pretty, but there weren’t enough of them to have an impact. But ‘Rustico Orange’ from Terra Nova packs a punch with abundant flowers on a dense, mounding habit. Zone 5.
Heliopsis ‘Sole d’Oro’: This large-flowered vegetative variety from Kientzler is a new selection of the native American false sunflower with huge golden daisies in mid- to late summer. It has an upright, bold habit, growing 36-inches tall. It’s an excellent choice for summer or fall color and as a hardy garden perennial.
Lavandula ‘Essence Purple’: ‘Hidcote’ is the popular standard for lavenders, but Pacific Plug and Liner stepped it up with ‘Essence Purple.’ Blooming a full 10 days earlier than ‘Hidcote,’ and with much-improved winter hardiness, it also will bloom the first year without vernalization. It still offers the same compact habit and fragrance as ‘Hidcote.’
Lavender Little Bee series: Another lovely lavender from Pacific Plug and Liner, but this one is just 12 to 14 inches high. It works wonderfully in containers and like all lavenders, is popular with pollinators. It is very early to bloom. There are lots of color choices: Blue White, Dark Rose, Lilac Improved, Purple and Rose. It is only hardy in Zones 8 to 9, but can easily be sold as container plant further north.
Combos are everywhere
Dümmen Orange has introduced several new perennial varieties to join its group of Mix-and-Match combos. All are designed to match well in vigor and offer a great mix of color, texture, and flower form. There are 15 varieties in all, and they are grown from liners that finish at the same time. No vernalization is required.When they are done in the pot they can be moved into the ground in the fall. New to the mix of Leucanthemums, Gaillardias, Coreopsis and Salvia this year are Salvia ‘Caramia’ and S. ‘Spring King,’ Coreopsis ‘Sunswirl’ and Gaillardia ‘SpinTop Orange Halo, G. ‘SpinTop Red,’ and G. ‘SpinTop Red.’
RhythMix combos are joint effort between Kieft Seed and Darwin Perennials, and consist of both seed and vegetative varieties. Darwin has been suggesting these combos for years, but formalized them this year. Plants can be grown individually and then put together, or the folks at Darwin recommend combining the plugs together in the final pot for a more natural-looking container. There are five different combos consisting of Lamium, Coreopsis, Gaillardia, Salvia, Dianthus, Achillea, Viola and more.