It seems that my favorite time of year is upon us once again (despite the lingering chill in the air). What is more hopeful and celebratory than driving down the Northampton roads and seeing the dogwoods, cherry trees, magnolias, apple trees, peach trees, lilacs and azaleas all in bloom? Before your garden beds are overcome with weeds and the colorful flowers of early spring have died back to allow for the next group of perennials to show their beautiful selves -- you have an opportunity to fill in the blanks! The following article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette lists some local plant sales going on this weekend and beyond - as well as suggestions for colorful additions to your garden beds.
Mickey Rathbun: Colorful New Perennials to Consider
Every year when my perennial beds come to life, I notice two or three places where a shriveled brown clump is all that’s left of a once-thriving plant. I often blame the burrowing rodents who kill my plants by feasting on their roots over the winter. (Surely, the cause of death couldn’t be my lack of care!) Last summer’s drought caused the demise of some of my newer perennials whose root systems hadn’t had the chance to develop. I’m certain I’m not alone in discovering bare spots in this year’s emerging garden.
There is a silver lining to this cloud, though: the opportunity to buy new plants to fill those holes. Many local plant sales in the coming weeks offer hardy perennials. But if you’re looking for something new and different, local plant nurseries are selling scores of bold new perennial varieties. Every year adds a dizzying array of new color choices. Here are some top 2017 picks that will add a welcome punch of color throughout the summer:
Threadleaf coreopsis provides an easy color infusion for a sunny border. The new coreopsis ‘Crazy Cayenne’ is as hot as its name suggests. Masses of fiery sunset orange blossoms hover over needlelike foliage. The sun-loving plant has a compact, mounding habit. With occasional deadheading, it will continue to bloom throughout the summer.
I love delphiniums. They are short-lived, but their colorful spires of flowers are so spectacular in the early summer garden I can’t pass them up. ‘Pink Punch’ delphinium is perhaps the deepest pink delphinium ever. It bears frilly mulberry-pink blooms with white, brown or pink-striped centers (called “bees”). A New Zealand hybrid, ‘Pink Punch’ grows from 3 to 6 feet tall, but its strong stems seldom require staking.
Delphiniums come in a range of colors, from deep purple to pink and white, but I’m a sucker for blue, a hard-to-find color in the perennial world. ‘Blue Bird’ is another brilliantly hued new variety of this stately, elegant early summer plant. This is a Pacific Giant Hybrid, with a bright blue blossom and a white “bee.” It grows from 4 to 6 feet tall, so staking is recommended.
Foliage can add color, too. I depend on hostas to brighten up my shady areas. A lovely new hosta, ‘Earth Angel,’ has variegated lime and blue-green leaves edged in creamy white. Its pale lavender flowers bloom in early summer.
Heucherella x. ‘Plum Cascade’ is another foliage star, with lobed, silvery-purple leaves that have a trailing habit. Its pale pink flowers rise above the foliage on short, strong stems.
Some people dislike daylilies because, as their name suggests, the blossoms last only a day before wilting and turning yucky. Despite this, I am a huge fan. The bright green, strappy foliage holds up well through the summer, and the abundant blossoms come in an ever-widening assortment of colors. This year’s ‘Primal Scream’ sports enormous blooms (7 ½ to 8 ½ inches wide!) in brilliant tangerine. Its petals are narrow, twisted and ruffled. I’ve found that if I choose varieties carefully, their range of bloom times will keep my daylily border colorful all summer.
‘Primal Scream’ blooms in early July.
Who can resist a splash of bright yellow in the garden? The new Echinaea ‘Golden Skipper’ has abundant, lemon-yellow blooms on sturdy, compact stems that reach only 15 to 18 inches tall. This plant is named after a yellow butterfly of the same color.
Stokesia laevis ‘Blue Frills’ is a new variety of the popular Stokes Aster that brings color in late summer and early fall, when other perennials have finished blooming. With a tidy, vase-shaped growth habit, this aster has large, electric blue flowers (2 ½ to 3 inches wide) with a sparkling white eye. It does best in full sun with good drainage.
This sampling barely scratches the surface of the latest offerings from perennial propagators everywhere.
Mother’s Day Dig Sale
Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway is having a Mother’s Day Weekend Dig Sale, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A wide variety of field grown perennials, hardy flowering shrubs, organic small fruits and excellent annuals will be available.
For more information and directions, go to wilderhillgardens.com
Berkshire BotanicalGarden plant sale
On May 19 and 20, Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge will hold its 40th annual plant sale. There will also be a tag sale. Members have special early bird privileges on May 19 from 9 to 11 a.m. The sale is open to the public May 19. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and May 20, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information, go to berkshirebotanical.org
Garden Club of Amherst plant sale
The Garden Club of Amherst will hold its annual plant sale May 20 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. under the tent, next to the Amherst Farmers Market on the Amherst Common, rain or shine.
There will be many wonderful plants including hundreds of perennials, hostas, woodland plants, grasses, shrubs and trees; plants for sun and shade.
This year’s sale will also feature bags of fully composted horse manure from a local farm. Proceeds from compost sales will benefit Chesapeake Safe Harbor, a wonderful rescue and rehoming operation for Chesapeake Bay Retrievers run by Roger Booth and his daughter, Gibby, of South Amherst.
Southampton Woman’s Club plant sale
The Southampton Woman’s Club, celebrating 100 years of service, will hold the annual Anita Smith Memorial Plant Sale May 20 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the One-Room Schoolhouse at Conant Park on Route 10 in Southampton. Held yearly since 1991, the plant sale is a nonprofit project with all money going to support a college scholarship program for area youths.
The sale will feature locally grown perennials, annuals, vegetable and herb plants. The club will also be selling a selection of vintage and “gently used” garden tools, containers and decorative garden items. Anyone wishing to help this scholarship program in the form of a monetary donation, or in the form of potted perennials, is encouraged to do so. Please call 527-4568 for further information.
Pollinator-friendly gardening: Lecture and guided walk
Our pollinators are declining at an unprecedented rate worldwide due to human-induced, rapid environmental change. These declines pose a significant threat to our food supply; consequently, there has been major focus on the development and implementation of conservation strategies to maintain pollination of agricultural crops. However, not enough attention is paid to the key role pollinators play in natural ecosystems, making them an ineffective tool for maintaining and restoring biodiversity.
On May 21, from 1 until 3 p.m., Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston will host a lecture and guided walk with Dr. Robert Gegear, from the WPI Department of Biology and Biotechnology, focusing on pollinator friendly environments. Gegear will discuss the importance of developing an ecologically focused approach to gardening. He will also provide information on how to identify local bumblebee species. After the presentation, Gegear will lead a walk through the gardens to show how to put his suggestions into practice.
Free with admission; pre-registration required. Go to: towerhillbg.org
Mickey Rathbun can be reached at email@example.com.