It’s finally here! Perennial Premiere is this weekend, and I can hardly wait. In the four years since I started working at the IMA, the perennial plant sale has grown into an event for the whole family, and it’s something I always look forward to. Every year on this Saturday morning as I’m walking out the door for a day of work inundated with exciting plants my husband always reminds me exactly how much is remaining in my plant budget. Well, I suppose the next best thing to buying plants for your own garden is sharing your knowledge and excitement with someone else who can grow it in theirs! There will be many tempting plants this weekend, but I get to share just a few with you that I think are worth getting really excited about.
Japanese sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’) is a great option for getting a little bit of chartreuse into the landscape without going overboard. It is a grass-like perennial, similar to a Siberian iris, which prefers a bit of moisture, even having the ability to grow in boggy conditions. If you site this in sun to part shade and in consistently moist soil, it will be a fairly low-maintenance perennial that will spread slowly. The flowers are pretty insignificant, so grow this one for the lovely, tufted, gold-variegated foliage that will reach about a foot tall and provide a fine-textured accent for bold-leafed perennials. It could also be quite effective as a groundcover for a smaller area, such as next to a water feature, or used as an accent in a container. In any garden, Acorus ‘Ogon’ is a very graceful, versatile plant.
There are many bugelweeds to choose from; all have that great blue flower in the spring and are effective and quick-growing groundcovers. The one that I’ve been the most impressed with for looking great even after it has finished blooming is Ajuga ’Chocolate Chip,’ and I’m going to be sure to nab a few of these for my own home garden this year! ‘Chocolate Chip’ is shorter than other bugleweeds at only 2” tall (3-4” with the flower spike), with lovely bronze to deep green foliage that retains its healthy vigor throughout the growing season. Some of the other Ajugas have flowers that tend to look a bit weedy after blooming, but it has been my observation that ‘Chocolate Chip’ maintains its neat appearance throughout the growing season. Site this little guy in a sunny or fairly shaded location between stepping stones or as a border edge; it won’t let you down!
Dwarf goat’s beard, Aruncus aethusifolius, is another lovely, compact perennial only reaching about 12” tall. It has an overall appearance similar to that of Astilbe, but its ferny foliage will not shrivel up and turn crispy brown in the drier spells of summer, allowing the opportunity for a nice yellow-orange leaf color to develop in the fall. It has white flower plumes in early to mid-summer, and would be a great, underused alternative in shady conditions for those who are looking for a good companion with Hosta, Epimedium or Brunnera.