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Love For Sale

When I wrote the intro to Geoff’s blog a couple weeks ago I told you I was prostituting myself for plants at the Perennial Plant Symposium. There is some truth to that.


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But I won’t whore myself. When accepting payment it must be clear that it is no guarantee of a favorable review at a later date. Not every thing is as great as the marketing would suggest. Shocking. Of course human nature makes me giddy with excitement over many of these new and exciting and best-ever-introduced plants. It’s variegated? I’m smitten. It’s chartreuse? I’m falling in love. It’s orange? I’m shopping for a ring. It’s all of those? I’m booking the wedding hall and registering at Target. The result of placing my chlorophyll in such a vulnerable spot is that some times my little horticultural heart gets broke – “I was sure this was the one that would bloom forever (sob, sob)”. But I know the pain will ease and soon I will be lusting and loving anew. Ah, the life of a plant slut.

Sometimes a plant isn’t so much sexy as practical. I think many natives fall in this category.I wouldn’t call Tiarella sexy. Pretty? Maybe. A hard worker? For sure. These woodland plants bloom in spring usually with new selections continuing until as late as July. Flowers are usually white with a pink blush but some are a rue light pink. They have very good foliage all season. I’m now trialing five new cultivars of running Tiarella cordifolia, foam flower from Plants Nouveau. Tiarella tends to be either a clumper or a runner. Runners can make better groundcovers because they spread by sending out runners, small plants on the end of horizontal shoots. These are all native to eastern Pennsylvania and named after five rivers in that region. Here are pictures of two.


'Delaware' (Plants Nouveau)


'Susquehana' (Plants Nouveau)

We will have to see if they like Indiana as well. I don’t think there will be a problem as we grow plenty of Tiarella already.

Some natives on the other hand are sexy. The Silphiums in all their big, bold, bodacious beauty are a fine example. Another example would be Tiarella’s somewhat slutty cousin Heucherella, a hybrid resulting from a one-night stand between a Tiarella and a Heuchera (coralbell). Heucherella is sometimes called foamy bells (foam flower x coralbell). The result is plants with flowers generally larger than Tiarella blossoms but smaller than Heuchera blossoms. Some have dark pink flowers. Now all the fantastic colors of Heuchera foliage is being introduced to these plants. Terra Nova has some hot ones right now. I am very interested in trialing some of these as well (my wish list is growing daily and gets sent next week). Jimmy Turner – I can’t help it, I have to call him by both names – Director of Horticulture Research at the Dallas Arboretum, likes them so I know they can handle heat and humidity. My favorite is probably ‘Golden Zebra’ though ‘Sweet Tea’ makes my blood boil a little too.


‘Golden Zebra’ (Terra Nova)


‘Sweet Tea’ (Terra Nova)

So many plants, so many vendors. Such is the life of a plant slut. Now, who had that chartreuse-leaved daylily with delphinium-blue flowers?

Filed under: Horticulture

3 Responses to “Love For Sale”

  • avatar
    Terry Says:

    So many plants, so little space/time….. LOVE your two picks of Golden Zebra and Sweet Tea. Yowza! I always knew you had a price. Of course, I also always knew it involved either plants or man candy (aka bacon), preferably on top of a lovely maple brined pork roast. Isn’t it time for Melissa to have us for dinner????

  • avatar
    Craig Says:

    What a fun article. When my wife and I moved t the 50’s burbs from our downtown condo a few years back, we were introduced to gardening (and frankly, lawnmowing) for the first time.

    We found our niche in hostas, as our yard was so shady. One hundred fifty varieties later, I concur with your weakness for variegation – the ‘streakers’ and aberrations are our premier plants. Love your Golden Zebra above. Now if I only had time to tend to them properly…

    Our gardening has led to a passion for heirloom tomatoes – we grow about 10 varieties each year in the one sunny spot on our lawn. And all this horiculture has led me (as an archiect) to design a modern residential hot house system for rooftops as an alternative to boring shingled roofs. Vegetables year-round. A new way of sustainability: sustainable year-round vegetable gardens.

    Keep up the good work!

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