Today we have an amazing array of plants available for our gardens. Plants that once would have been available only to the super wealthy can be found at a small independent garden center, a big box store, or even the grocery store. The change may not be so noticeable to beginning gardeners but those of us that have been looking through catalogues for 40 years or so can see a dramatic shift. Many of these new plants are introductions from other parts of the world. Many are “newly discovered” natives (“newly appreciated”?). And many are bred by humans that are able to bring together species that would never meet in Mother Nature’s singles bars. One of those humans is Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries and one of those group of singles he’s brought together is coralbells, Heuchera.
Heucheras were once grown for flowers alone pretty much. And they are mighty fine flowers. Great in the garden and for cuts. I’m sure hummingbirds love them too. But the importance of flowers has changed beautifully in the last two decades, especially since Dan and Terra Nova started their incredible breeding program. Heucheras are better known for foliage now. And why not? The foliage is around much longer than the flowers. As in close to year round. Much as I desire colorful flowers I cannot forget foliage. And with Heuchera I get color from foliage so my desires are satisfied.
Last spring Terra Nova sent me a variety pack of Heuchera and XHeucherella (Heuchera crossed with its relative Tiarella – foam flower – to create foamy bells). These were plugs that I potted up to four inch pots for a few weeks before planting in the ground. I was limited in where I could plant them due to the colorful foliage. Some things we won’t put in the historic areas. My best options were in the Cutting Garden and our office area. The Cutting Garden is basically full sun and the office area has shade. Something for everyone.
I was a bit concerned but the ones listed as full sun plants I decided to try in full sun. Now the catalogue clearly states to be aware of your local conditions. Was that full sun in Oregon? Full sun in Georgia? Full sun in Indiana? What the hell? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. These plants did experience mid-day sun but got some shade in the early/mid-morning and late afternoon. The soil is decent but not great. And we got lucky around here last year and had fabulous heat and drought. These plants were going to have to suck it up or die. We irrigate but there isn’t enough staff to baby plants. I was concerned a time or two but the only ones I lost were shaded out by Bull’s Blood beets. Stupid me for not being more careful. Here’s how one group looks now. Notice how there are fewer of the dark ‘Cajun Fire’? Yup. Growing next to the beets. By the way, somebody needs to do some edging.
Now a few individual plants.
I actually had more problems with the plants that went to the most heavily shaded area, quite simply because I had such a difficult time keeping the soil moist until established I believe. Hemlock shade is not the best to deal with. The two gold foliaged plants went here and they had the roughest time of it. I was downright shocked to find five ‘Electric Lime’ still alive this spring. I may move them yet. In fact I will. There’s not babying and there’s not doing right by.
The following two were much happier. But they were not under hemlocks either.
Over all I am well pleased. Time is needed of course to tell which will become garden classics like ‘Caramel’. One year is hardly a proper study but I really thought those in the sun might just fry when we got past 100 multiple times. Another gardening season awaits with many delights to test them again no doubt.
And while I am on this group of plants a quick shout out to Angela Treadwell-Palmer and Plants Nouveau. You gave me some River Series Tiarella a few years back. Yes, I lost the labels. And yes, I lost some plants. But I cannot tell you how many times I have found these plants flat on the ground before I got water on them. They bounce right back up.
They are between a ninety year-old tulip tree and the hemlocks mentioned earlier. Only tough plants survive there on minimum care. Especially considering we’ve had droughts three summers in a row. I should move them too I suppose.
Okay. That’s enough for this week. Great gardening weather and I have a great deal of gardening to do. But you all take time to come out and visit us. The gardens are gorgeous.
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