With a Perennial Plant Association conference under my belt this past week, touring “wow” gardens, and cruising the trade show aisles filled to overflowing with new perennial introductions, you would think that I have ‘perennial fatigue’. It sounds like a new disease doesn’t it? But I have the perennial bug bad. And my list of must-haves just ballooned like an Peony on steroids! Here are some perennials that I will be looking for at the nearest garden center or big box stores. The big box stores sometimes get the new intros before my wholesale nursery starts to carry them, so I will be on the hunt. Go to Plant Lust- 8 Must Haves to see some other plant acquisitions on my list.
The variegated foliage of Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Sunstruck” was an attribute that jumped out at me right away. The flower is pretty too and I think for the size of the plant (a gallon), there were plenty of them. Ultimately growing 14 to 16 inches tall with a similar spread, this is a selection of our native wildflower, False Sunflower. Forming a medium tall mound of silver and green variegated leaves with branching heads of sunny flowers in mid to late season, this should be attractive to native pollinators. Foliage beauty is very important to me since a perennial will only flower for a limited amount of time and this one has it in spades.
Echinacea ‘Pink Poodle’
Yes, I know, another Coneflower! I have Coneflower overload but this ‘Pink ‘Poodle’ was a standout in a perennial border that I visited. Introduced in 2009, but overlooked by me, the double-flowered plant features very full and fluffy-looking flowers packed with bright pink petals, resembling a dahlia. The plant habit is well-branched, strong and bushy. It is excellent for cutting, but I suspect that it won’t be as attractive to butterflies as the single flowered ones. If you are familiar with ‘Razzmatazz’, which looks very similar, this is a much better plant.
Helenium ‘Red Jewel’
I am always on the hunt for red flowers. Red attracts hummers and butterflies, and it goes with everything. This Helenium ‘Red Jewel’ attracted my attention on an estate property along a country lane mixed with other herbaceous perennials. Petal skirts of garnet red surround the brown center and look like tiny ballerinas dancing through the foliage. Tall at 4 feet and yes, it probably needs to be staked unless you have other shrubs or perennials around supporting it, the flowers attract butterflies. Requiring full sun, with a good amount of room, I imagine planting this at the back of a border and enjoying the late season color.
If you have never grown an Agastache or Anise Hyssop, go right to the nursery and pick one up. Deer resistance, longevity of bloom, attraction to pollinators, ease of growth, and fabulous scent, are just some of the attributes of this great plant. This is one of my top plants for attracting pollinators. Go to Plant These For the Bees for other good selections. Overwintering an Agastache has been a challenge for me. They sometimes make it and sometimes not, and of course drainage is always implicated when a plant fails. Only ‘Blue Fortune’ Agastache has been reliable for me, and the other varieties I treat more as annuals. But the Kudos series is purportedly hardier and also mildew resistant which can be a problem.
‘Kudos’ are shorter than other Anise Hyssops, clocking in at 17-20″ tall. So, more compact, fuller flowers, and the blooms come in an array of colors-gold, ambrosia, coral, mandarin, silver blue, and yellow. What’s not to like? I have the gold one in the ground and am very interested to see if it survives my winter here in zone 6b. The claims of hardiness are zones 5 through 9.