Gardening can break your heart. The rabbits ate every bit of lettuce I planted this spring and they mowed down all my poppies. Several favorite perennials bit the dust. My gold smokebush died for no apparant reason.
You roll the dice when you're a gardener, but it's all worth it for the exquisite moments of pleasure you experience when you create a great combination (usually accidental) or discover a terrific plant. If you want to find out about some trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals that made my summer, read on.
Styrax japonicus 'Pink Chimes'
I breezed by this little tree when I saw it at my favorite nursery, pretending not to notice how striking it was. "I don't need any more plants," I told myself. Feeling morally righteous, I went home without it, but I couldn't stop thinking about how perfect it would be in the container next to the front gate of my garden. Then I thought - there were only two, and what if I change my mind and there aren't any left later? The little voice in my head wouldn't shut up, so I went back the next day and bought it.
The shape of the tree and magenta foliage were what drew me to this tree, but the little bunches of bell shaped flowers that opened later were icing on the cake. They had such a delightfully sweet subtle fragrance! I'm glad I put it by that gate.
To be honest, I'm not sure where I'm going to plant this thing once I take it out of the container. It's an understory specimen that wants some shade and protection. According to the information on the tag, it's hardy to zone 5-8 (tough enough for my zone 5 garden). It can grow 20-30 feet tall and needs medium, acidic soil, so I'm looking around for right spot in my shady backyard.
Acer x pseudosieboldianum 'North Wind'
This new introduction from Iseli Nursery landed on my doorstep last year. It didn't look that impressive in it's small pot, but its claims were. Part of the Jack Frost maple group, it's been tested in the Midwest and found hardy to temps of -30 degrees. I successfully overwintered it in a corner of my garden. This spring, I put it in a larger pot and stuck in a few perennials and annuals to see what it would do.
This tree is a real show stopper. The serrated foliage looks delicate, but it's tough. The new leaves emerge with a showy pink color that lights up the whole tree. At the end of the summer, the foliage turns a dramatic orangey red - really stunning. Now I'm glad I put that coleus underneath it.
I think the green bark is pretty special - the subtle markings are a striking asset. I can picture myself pruning it up to show off the bottom. I almost wish I could just keep it in this pot, but it grows to 20' with a spread of 15' so I'm surveying my property to find just the right place for it.
Weigela florida'Czechmark Trilogy'
This newish introduction from Proven Winners is part of a series that showcases flower power. I planted it in a container with some other shrubs, perennials and annuals and let it thrill and spill. The flowers are prolific and last longer than other small weigelas I've tried. Fat little clusters of white, light and dark pink flowers pop out at the end of May. It made my heart beat a little faster, even after it stopped blooming. I guess it can't stay in this container forever, but it's relatively small - about 36-42 inches, just right for a small garden.
Hydrangea paniculata 'Bobo'
I'm a fan of panicle hydrangeas, but most of them get too big for my garden. This one got me excited - reported to mature at 30-36 inches. Bobo and Czechmark were roommates in the container below. It was a good match - Bobo was hitting its stride just as Czechmark faded out. It started blooming around mid-June and lasted for most of the summer. Note to self, buy more and mass somewhere in a border.
Rosa sp x 'Cupcake'
This miniature rose is ridiculously cute. It stands around 18" tall and flowers like crazy all summer without much deadheading. I planted it at the base of some climbing roses and clematis. It's a great plant for the edge of a walkway. I smile every time I pass by it.
Not surprisingly, the Perennial Plant Association deemed this little beauty the 2018 pick for Perennial Plant of the year. If you haven't planted it, get some - this is a perennial that has a lot going for it. I'm wary of rabbits and groundhogs around here, but as this is in the onion family the critters don't munch it. Plus, it likes dry soil and packs a lot of color into a late summer planting.
Amsonia ciliata var filifolia 'Georgia Pancake'
I scored this plant at a Master Gardeners auction last fall. It's a rare blue star, discovered by Bob McCartney, a native plant guru (you can find it at Plant Delights). I was taken with its flat shape and dimunitive size (5" tall). I tucked it into this bed thinking that it would be a nice contrast against the magenta foliage of the smoke bush. I forgot all about it until it emerged in all its goldness.
OMG - this thing totally dazzled me. It has everything - foliage, texture and it looks like it's going to be a great spreader. I can't wait to see it bloom! It made me forget all about the dead plants and rabbit damage.
Orlaya grandiflora 'White Lace'
I first saw this in a friends garden who has a thing for umbellifiers. I was inspired, even though I've tried to grow things like Daucus carrota (Queen Annes Lace) and they always flop. I was pleasantly surprised, this relative is much sturdier. And such a terrific cut flower! Those lacy white flowers keep coming back - the more you pick, the more you get.
The flowers last a week or more in a vase. They look like they'd be fussy, but they're easy to grow. I ordered the seed from Select Seeds and started them inside.
Now I'm hoping they'll reseed!
Sunpatiens Variegated Tropical Rose
I felt like I was copping out when I bought new guinea impatiens, but this combination turned out better than I thought it would. The colors are kind of garish, but they grew on me. It gets bonus points for being such an easy plant to grow - doesn't need frequent watering, deadheading or feeding. It flowered like mad all summer and it's still pumping it out. Yep, I'll be buying more of these next year.
I'd be hard put to say which one of this years finds was my favorite, but each one made me feel like life was worth living. Buying plants can turn you into a hopeless romantic. If you had a plant that made you feel the same, please share!