Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sunflowers for Bouquets

I’m a great fan of sunflowers (Helianthus annus) and my favorites have the smaller blooms that are easy to use in bouquets. Johnny’s Seeds in Maine is one good place to find a great selection. Or you can swing by Amanda’s Greenhouse to get the plants!

I’m planting several new varieties this year. 'Procut Gold' appeals to me because it is early (50-60 days), pollenless, and has a relatively small bloom (3 - 4").

(Photo from Harris Seed catalogue)

I'm sold on the photos of 'Starburst Lemon Aura.' It is a double, kind of fluffy looking sunflower. It is on the large size for my tastes, 8", but it is pollen free and I love its appearance. We shall see.

(Photo from Vermont Bean Seed Company)

Johnny’s Seeds describe 'Peach Passion' as a “fantastic branching variety with high yields ... ideal for arrangements.” It is a pollenless semi-double bloom - 4” across.

(Photo from Harris Seed Catalogue)

'Florenza' has a 5" bi-color burgundy bloom with yellow tips. The "strong branching trait" appeals to me, as that should mean more flowers for bouquets.

Other sunflowers I like for bouquets include 'Moulin Rouge', 'Joker', 'Soraya', and 'Sonja.' Last year I had good luck with 'Autumn Beauty Mix'. I have no idea which varieties are included, but I got loads of cuts off a small planting and will try that mix again.

(Photo from Veseys Seed Catalogue)

Friday, February 17, 2012

New Perennials at Amanda's Greenhouse

I'm always game to try new perennials. I like bee balm (monarda) as a cut flower and am looking forward to trying 'Purple Rooster.' It boasts both "true royal purple flowers" and "mildew free plants." Bee balm can be an aggressive spreader, but its roots are shallow and it is easy to thin.

'Purple Rooster' Monarda
Photo from Walters Gardens

Perennial grasses are tricky. Many of them are either too vigorous, or they do not stay upright. 'Karl Forester', a feather reed grass, was the 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year. The publicist call it a "vertical masterpiece." I am less impressed. Where I have it growing it spreads too fast does not look good all season. I'll try it somewhere else.

Meanwhile, I am forever impressed with miscanthus 'Silberfeder' (silver feather grass) which looks nice in my garden all winter. Every spring I dig around the edges to keep it from getting too big and of course to have plants to offer my customers.

Late last sumer I was visiting my friends at Cady's Falls Nursery and was very impressed with a blue switch grass, Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal'. It was upright and about 50 inches tall. This is one I will be growing and selling this year. This grass has metallic blue leaves which turn yellow in the fall.

'Heavy Metal' panicum virgatum
Photo from Walter's Gardens

Mildew on phlox is definitely a problem for me. 'David' seems to have the best resistance and I am adding 'David's Lavender' this year, which is supposed to have the same resistance.

David's Lavender Phlox
Photo from Walter's Gardens

Another new phlox I will be trying, because I was asked by a customer and I can't resist the photo, is 'Peppermint Twist.' It's only 16 inches tall and appears to be a real sweetheart. It is also supposed to have good mildew resistance.

Peppermint Twist Phlox
Photo from Plants Delight Web Site

Many more new plants on the horizon.

Monday, February 13, 2012

MORE New Plants for the Garden

The National Garden Bureau has named 2012 as “the Year of the Geranium.” Burpees will be offering a yellow geranium. There are so many great long lasting yellow flowers out there already, this introduction does not appeal to me.

Last year I started growing ‘Graffiti Red’ geranium, which is an exotic and unusual appearing geranium that’s been around for a while, but is hard to find.

Graffiti Red’ geranium

They produce loads of wild looking double, star-shaped flowers. I call it my “punk” geranium.

A nice development in the world of geraniums is interspecific breeding. Zonal and ivy geraniums are both grown from cuttings. The zonals are tough, upright and vigorous.

Calliope Dark Red

The ivies are pretty for hanging baskets and window boxes, but are susceptible to oedema (water ruptures the cells of the leaves) and are generally not good in full sun. So the industry has crossed the two (interspecific) and come up with excellent new geraniums, notably the ‘Caliente’ and ‘Calliope’ series.

One new variety that I will reluctantly try is 'Plentifall' pansies. They are fragrant and are bred for hanging baskets with a trailing habit of up to 24 inches. I’m sure they are lovely, but I can’t help worrying about dead heading, once the first bloom has finished.

Photo from

Johnnies Selected Seeds is offering “Flower Sprout,” a cross of brussel sprouts and kale. The plant grows like a brussel sprout, and develops decorative, edible rosettes. This is something that will be fun to try, but it is backordered until May.

Gardening is a joy for me and experimenting with new plants is part of the fun.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What is New for the Garden

First, I'll tell you what is new for me - both knees. I had bilateral knee surgery in December and have spent most of the winter recovering, exercising, and generally getting back on my feet again.

We are having a mild winter here in northern Vermont and I know the lack of snow has been difficult for anyone associated with winter recreation. We covered our perennials in pots later than usual, but I still worry that they got too warm under the various layers. We shall see.

Meanwhile I am ready to start blogging again about one of my greatest pleasures - gardening.

Every year the All-American Selections competition (AAS) chooses the “best new, never-before-sold plant varieties.” Four entries with “superior garden performance” are given the AAS Award. The competition has introduced a total of 637 plants since 1933.

Some of the past AAS winning plants, like ‘Bright Lights’ swiss chard or ‘Sensation’ cosmos have gone on to become classics. Others, like ‘Harkness’ tomato and ‘Melody’ marigold have disappeared from the horticultural marketplace.

The two winning flowering plants for 2012 are salvia ‘Summer Jewel Pink’ and an ornamental pepper, ‘Black Olive.’ Normally I grow every every new AAS selection, but I’m stepping back this year.

‘Summer Jewel Pink’ (above) is the sister of ‘Summer Jewel Red’ which won the AAS award last year and I did grow that plant last summer. Perhaps it was the wet season, but its performance was underwhelming.

’Black Olive’ (above) is a decorative pepper with dark purple fruit growing along the plant’s stems. It is edible, but if I’m going to grow a showy pepper I choose ‘Super Chile’. It is very pretty and a great producer of inch long bright red hot peppers. Super Chile was an AAS winner in 1988 and it produces three times as many peppers as regular chile peppers.

The two vegetable winners are ‘Cayennetta’ peppers (above) and ‘Faerie’ watermelon. ‘Cayennetta’ pepper is a “mildly spicy pepper that is easy to grow.” This variety produces red chili peppers about 3 to 4 inches long on a compact, well branched upright plant. It is 69 days to maturity and I may be tempted to try it as a container plant.

‘Faerie’ watermelon (above) has a yellow rind with thin stripes. It yields “sweet pink-red flesh with a high sugar content and the vigorous vines spread only to 11 feet .” You can grow melons in our area, but for me they use up too much garden space for their relatively small yield.

A new concept that is turning up more and more in retail seed catalogues is the “fuseable” seed. This is when more than one seed is combined in a pellet form. Different colored coleus or petunias are often combined, and sometimes two different species are combined, like bacopa and petunias. The idea is to take the guesswork out of nice color or plant combinations.

I’ll pass for now. I’d rather create my own combinations and I also worry about one of the seeds in the pellets not germinating. It will be interesting to see how successful this new trend becomes. I will discuss more new plants the next time I blog.