Monday, April 18, 2016

Lathyrus vernus with Virginia bluebells

The Wide World of Wonderful Plants!

It's spring at last and you know what THAT means... Tons of really cool plants are arriving at Natureworks every day. As I wandered the benches early Saturday morning, I was thrilled to see the selection that has already appeared. Here are some highlights.

Comptomia peregrina is called sweet fern
Let's start with some NATIVES. Our American Beauties native benches are filling up quickly. I constantly find people browsing this section as most of us are trying to use a lot more native plants in our landscapes. In bloom now is one of my favorites- spicebush. As you drive around you will spot this in flower in wet woodlands. It looks like a mist of soft yellow. If you scratch the bark, you will smell the spicy aroma. This is the larval food plant of the
Lindera benzoin (Spicebush) is blooming in our wet woodlands
spicebush swallowtail. The red summer berries are beloved by birds. Another interesting native is sweet fern. It isn't a fern at all, but the foliage is delicate and it also smells wonderful when you crush it. This plant forms colonies in dry, poor soil. It is a workhorse for those difficult areas and grows 2-4' tall. It is also a butterfly larval food plant. Our native plant benches contain blueberries, elderberries, cranberries, and Aronia (chokeberries). We even have a new, dwarf Aronia melanocarpa 'Low Scape'. It has the same white flowers and edible black berries but only grows 2' tall. This is a fabulous landscape plant! 

A native hillside of trilliums and Dutchman's britches
Zizia is also a butterfly plant for the shade.

Naturally, we have lots and LOTS of native perennials as well. One entire area is devoted to woodland wildflowers such as trilliums, bloodroot, Zizia, Virginia bluebells, Uvularia, Tiarellas, and so much more. 

Got sun and want native perennials?  Why not plant "bluetts" (Houstonia). I am sure you remember these from your youngeryears, they used to grow in all the lawns before folks started killing the lawn flowers with poisons. I know of many fields in Durham and Middletown that are filled with bluetts in the spring. It is truly magical.  


We have Geum triflorum, also called prairie smoke. They are grown for their very cool seed pods. These are the biggest plants we have ever stocked. We are stocking some of our favorite late fall asters now so you can get them to grow big and lush by October. Baptisias are arriving, along with many Echinaceas.

Geum 'Mai Tai'
Have you heard about the Cocktail Series of Geums? I have loved the genus Geum for a long time. They bloom early and come in rich colors. Lately, the hybridization of Geums has brought us long blooming varieties that are great cut flowers. "Flavors" include 'Alabama Slammer' (shown above), 'Tequila Sunrise', and 'Mai Tai' to name a few. They look great combined with perennial bachelor's buttons and early dwarf Iris pumila. Speaking of which, we have a full selection 
Dwarf Iris pumila 'Baby Blessed'
of these early blooming gems in right now. My favorite is 'Baby Blessed', a soft yellow variety that blooms heavily in early May and repeats reliably in October and November. We also have purples, blues, and other colors in stock. If you love irises and want to enjoy them really early, these are for you. 

Digitalis thapsii, a very pretty perennial foxglove
Do you grow perennial foxgloves? This is Digitalis thapsii, a very lovely variety with soft pink flowers. These appeared on our benches last week.  We also have the rare oriental poppy 'Patty's Plum', the old fashioned, classic early white Phlox 'Miss Lingard', and an unusual YELLOW Weigela that Ken Druse spoke about at the CT Horticulture Symposium this winter called 'Canary'. It is a a pale, creamy color and will tolerate a bit of shade. It blooms a lot earlier than the others. 

Even our miniature plant collection is growing. Shown above is Phlox subulata 'Betty', a teeny tiny creeping phlox that has been happy in my courtyard for nearly 10 years. Those are my fingers shown in the picture. We also have Allium thunbergii 'Ozowa', a plant that won't bloom until November but a diminutive delight that is really hard to find. If you plant it now, when in blooms in late fall you will be very proud of yourself!

Late fall blooming Allium 'Ozowa' is a treat
I could go on and on. It's a wonderful time to be a gardener. Stretch your horizons and plant a few new things in your landscape this year. Whether you are doing so just for beauty or perhaps trying to enhance the habitat potential of your yard, it will do your soul good to get outside and start planting!