Five New Perennials I've Added to my Garden

In late July I went to Niagara Falls for the 2023 Perennial Plant Association (PPA) Symposium and, as is always the case when I attend a plant/garden event, I’ve come back inspired.

The symposium includes a trade show where new perennials are showcased & speaking to the growers/breeders is always a highlight for me.  I saw so many plants that intrigued me and in this post, I’ll be highlighting five that I’m particularly excited about.

Spoiler alert - this is one of them...


Stachys byzantina ‘Little Lamb’

When I approached the Darwin Perennial booth there was a LOT to look at – but among the vibrant Echinacea, floriferous Salvia and Leucanthemum covered in blooms, it was this guy – aptly named ‘Little Lamb’ - that first caught my eye:

Stacys byzantina 'Little Lamb'

When it comes to Stachys byzantina, I had the species in my garden for many years but I always found it a bit unruly – not that I’m a formal garden gal, quite the opposite actually.  Give me a cottage garden overflowing with masses of plants going every which way over a perfectly trimmed topiary any day.  I did enjoy the species especially at the beginning of the season when the new growth came in, but it was pretty aggressive in it’s spread and I was really not a fan of those fuzzy flower spikes – they just looked strange and messy to my eyes.  After a few years, I ended up pulling it all out.

So imagine my delight when I saw this gorgeous diminutive Stachys with a low, almost layered habit and those beautiful silver-green leaves.  First thing I did:  Reach out and touch it, of course!  It’s just as delightful as you would think.  Second thing I did:  Approach Marion & Brenda*, the Darwin reps, and ask them to tell me all about it.

So let’s get to the nitty gritty.  ‘Little Lamb’ enjoys full sun and is hardy from zone 4-8.  Just like the species, it’s also drought tolerant and deer/rabbit resistant.  It only gets 2-5" tall and 12-15" wide and when it comes to the flower spikes, they are a lot shorter and ‘neater’ than the species. 

It’s a low spreader and it does spread at a good pace (but not aggressively so), making it a great groundcover in a sunny spot.  In addition, it’s low stature and touchability factor means this is the perfect plant to place along a walkway...which is exactly what I did.

The touchability factor - irresistible!

The bad news is that ‘Little Lamb’ won’t be available until 2024.  The good news is that I have a feeling this one will become very popular, very quickly, so it likely won’t be long until you are able to find it at a nursery near you.


Polemonium ‘Golden Feathers’ (Jacob’s Ladder)

A Jacob’s ladder that not only has beautiful bluish-purple flowers in the spring, but also provides all season interest with gorgeous, variegated leaves that get tinges of pink during cooler weather?  Yes please!

Polemonium 'Golden Feathers'

I do have another variety of variegated Jacob’s ladder in the garden – ‘Stairway to Heaven’ – which is incredibly pretty.  The one difference between that one and ‘Golden Feathers’ is its habit.  While ‘Stairway to Heaven’ has a decidedly upright habit, ‘Golden Feathers’ is a mounding variety – which I love!

This is the perfect plant to brighten up a shady spot, which is where it’s happiest.

The pink tinges on the leaves add yet another layer of beauty

The Darwin rep did say that she’s heard of some people having success with this one in a partly sunny spot but this is most likely in cooler areas – I wouldn’t try that in the south!

‘Golden Feathers’ gets 6-8” tall & 12-14” wide, is hardy from zone 5b-9a and is deer resistant.


Nepeta x faassenii 'Junior Walker'

This is one of the ‘older’ varieties on my list, introduced back in 2014, but I don’t really see it out there that often so I wanted to spread the word and give it it’s rightful shout-out as a ‘must-have’ for nepeta lovers like myself.

Nepeta is one of my favourite drought tolerant, long flowering summer perennials.  Many varieties do, however, get rather large and sprawly – I’m talking to you ‘Walker’s Low’.  Despite its name, Walker’s Low is a beast, getting 3' tall & wide.  It also tends to splay open unless you give it a really good cut back in early summer and even then, there’s no guarantee that it will behave.  Fun fact:  Walker’s Low is actually named for a garden in England, which totally explains the dichotomy between its name and actual size.  Now you know πŸ™‚

Nepeta faasenii 'Junior Walker'

I was at a friends garden a few weeks ago (Hi Helen!) and we were standing in front of her Walker’s Low that had done the ‘splits’ so to speak.  Both of us lamented that while we ‘want’ to cut our splaying Nepeta's back in mid-summer, we often procrastinate in doing so since they are still buzzing with pollinators.  That’s one conundrum you are less likely to face with ‘Junior Walker’.

‘Junior Walker’ is just as it sounds – it’s a smaller, more compact version of ‘Walker’s Low’.  But lack of splay is not the only reason to get this one in your garden – it’s also an early bloomer AND it’s more floriferous than comparable varieties, a boon for humans and pollinators alike.

Both Walker's Low and Junior Walker are sterile varieties of nepeta, meaning they don't produce viable seed.  They do, however, produce nectar - and plenty of it - which is why both are magnets for bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. 

'Junior Walker' in it's new home ❤️

‘Junior Walker’ needs a spot with full sun and is hardy from zone 4-8.  It blooms from early spring all the way through the summer and is heat & drought tolerant as well as deer resistant.  And while it doesn’t specify this in the literature, I would venture that this one, much like other Nepetas, is likely to be less attractive to rabbits due to it’s scent.


Carex oshimensis ‘Ribbon Falls’

Over the past few years, people are getting more and more excited about grasses, and rightly so.  They add texture and movement to the border that's unlike any other perennial.  Now, while Carex isn’t a true grass, it is ‘grass-like’ and treated in more or less the same way, being an awesome addition to any garden.

I have several varieties in my borders from the “Ever” series, and I love them all.  So when I saw this guy in the Trixwood Nursery* booth, I was immediately drawn in.

Carex oshimensis 'Ribbon Falls' 

In addition to ‘Ribbon Falls’, there were also a few booths showcasing the variegated 'Feather Falls'.

Carex oshimensis 'Feather Falls'
Photo Credit:  Walters Gardens

While many folks were going gaga over the variegated version - and it is glorious, no doubt - I was particularly enthralled with the solid green variety.  The dark green colour really allowed the incredible glossiness to 'shine' (see what I did thereπŸ˜‰).

The leaves are sturdy & fairly wide, resulting in a beautiful arching nature.  When it comes to size, this is definitely not one of those Carex that you can tuck into a small hole in a garden bed.  It can grow into a 2’ tall x 5’ wide clump within a couple of years!

Look at that gloss!

‘Ribbon Falls’ flourishes in part sun to light shade.  Just as with some of the ‘Ever’ series of Carex, I’ve seen the hardiness zones for this one listed as going down to both zone 5 and 6 (up to zone 9).  I’m in zone 5b so, just to be on the safe side, I've put it in a more protected spot so that it doesn’t get the brunt of our westerly winter winds.

I do have one word of warning when picking a spot for Carex in your garden.  While 'Ribbon Falls' & 'Feather Falls' are listed as being rabbit resistant, I have not found that to be the case with the other Carex oshimensis varieties in my garden.  I have lost many Carex to the local bunny population & have resorted to only planting them in my fenced-in veg garden border or in garden beds that the rabbits don’t normally frequent, such as those that are closer to the street, although this latter option is definitely a riskier proposition.

One thing I did notice about both of these varieties compared to the others that I grow, however, is how thick and sturdy the leaves are.  I’m wondering if this is why they are listed as rabbit resistant.

Originally, I was going to place this guy in my fenced-in area but then decided to take a chance and plant it in a garden bed that's right beside our driveway.  If all goes well (and the bunnies stay away!), I bet it will rise to the top of the list of plants that our guests ask about.


Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’

Each year, the members of the PPA vote on the perennial that will become the next ‘Plant of the Year’** and the winner for 2024 was Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’.

Phlox paniculata 'Jeana'
Photo Credit:  Saunders Brothers, Inc.

I did add phlox to the garden a few years ago, but the variety I purchased didn’t last long.  It always ended up with a bad case of powdery mildew each and every year, getting weaker and weaker until, eventually, it just didn’t come back.

I do have two other phloxes in the garden, both of which are 'mystery' plants.  The first is a 3' tall magenta beauty that has been in the garden since we moved in many years ago and comes back reliably every year with zero care and zero mildew.

The other one is a tiny guy that has come up every year for about 4 or 5 years.  I have no idea where it came from and my best guess is that it was a hitchhiker on one of the other plants that I purchased at some point.  It’s super small, only getting about 6” tall & wide, but it brightens up that spot in the garden with some ‘unexpected’ colour each spring as I usually forget that it’s there.

‘Jeana’ is anything but small – it gets to be 5’ tall x 4’ wide!  Unlike most other popular phlox varieties, however, the individual flowers on Jeana’s bloom spikes are quite small – which I actually love.

My 'Jeana' seedling, newly planted into the border

‘Jeana’ was a chance find by Jeana Prewitt (hence the name) amongst a colony of phlox growing along the Harpeth River in Nashville, Tennessee.  What really stood out about this particular plant was that the leaves were powdery mildew free compared to all of the other phlox in that area.  Mt. Cuba Center conducted trials on a large number of phlox varieties and Jeana flew to the top of the list for that very reason.  In addition, they found that, despite having smaller flowers, Jeana attracted more butterflies than any other variety being trialed.  It’s no wonder PPA members voted it as ‘Plant of the Year’!

Jeana needs a full sun spot but prefers a bit of afternoon shade if you are in a hot climate.  It blooms from mid-July to early September and is hardy from zones 3-8.

------------------

Most industry events in the North American gardening world are held in the United States & there are restrictions on bringing plants over the border.  This year, however, since the symposium was held on the Canadian side of the border, I was lucky enough to bring home some plants to trial, including the ones in this post.  I got all of them into the ground shortly after returning and now comes the fun part - seeing how they settle in and (hopefully!) thrive in my Southern Ontario garden.

Happy Gardening!

*A big thank you to Marion Meesenburg and Brenda Bliss-Cooling from Darwin Perennials and Homer Trecartin from Trixwood Nursery for their generosity, not only with their plants but also in the time they spent answering my seemingly endless questions 😊

** Perennials chosen for this honour are suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multiple-season interest and are relatively pest/disease free – for more info, visit the PPA website.

Comments

  1. All lovely prospects. Most are probably unsuitable for my climate (although I usually avoid being deterred by my hardiness zone 10b/11a, preferring to consult my Sunset book's more generous guidelines). I'll probably try the Stachys when it becomes available. I already have Carex 'Feather Falls' and it did fall prey to rabbits almost immediately after it was planted; however, it rebounded beautifully and relatively quickly and hasn't been touched since so maybe it gave the local rabbits gastric distress ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've tried several plants that are not supposed to be hardy here that have, in fact, survived so I'm always up for trying something that is just outside of my zone (so long as the price is reasonable!) That's great to hear about the Feather Falls! So far, mine is doing well and, while I've seen rabbits around every once in a while this year, they are not as numerous as in the past. I've my fingers crossed that they stay away (or, as in your case, try it and then avoid it afterwards!).

      Delete
  2. Those are beautiful new plants, Margaret. Sounds like you had a great time at the event. Looking forward to seeing you this week at the Fling. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Beth! Oh boy...I absolutely can't wait to see you too - I think this is going to be one EPIC fling!!

      Delete

Post a Comment

I appreciate and thoroughly enjoy all of your lovely comments :) Please note that in order to foil those pesky spammers, comment moderation has been enabled for older comments.

Popular Posts