What makes gardening so fun? There are many answers, but one of them is that there are just so many darned great plants out there that show us just how creative and tough Mother Nature can be (sometimes with the help of a plant breeder!)
As a kid, I thought the most fun in the world was making those silly snapdragons “roar.” How many of us held a dandelion to our chin to see if we were sweeter than butter? And braiding daisies for our May baskets was a tradition that just was not to be missed.
The plants we’ve included here are just a sampling of the ongoing creativity of plant breeders in bringing new interest to our gardens with color, often in multiple seasons; new takes on old varieties and surprising us with shapes and forms that have to be seen to be believed. So let this spark your imagination, and remember that there is lots of time to perk up your gardens with distinctive plants yet this summer!
Echinacea ‘Green Envy’–Coneflowers have truly undergone a revolution in the past decade, with colors and shapes hardly imaginable before then. Some do well over time, and others fall by the wayside as their pretty color fails to inspire when we find they not tough enough for our midwest gardens. ‘Green Envy’ coneflower, however, is one that likely will make the cut, both for it’s surprising habit–a green tinted bloom that develops a rosy cast on petals near the center of the bloom and a crown of gold and green disk flowers that are nearly luminescent.
Calamintha ssp. nepetoides–With all the interest in bee and butterfly friendly gardening, nothing could be more attractive than this midwest native calamint. Those familiar with the standby blue Catmint or nepeta (for example, ‘Walker’s Low’) will recognize the wondeful minty scent of this plant. But that is just the start for Calamintha–it blooms ALL summer, it is upright with tiny white or pinkish blooms, the bees will ravish themselves in it, and it will be very unpalatable to bunnies and deer. Sound too good to be true? Try it out for yourselves then! 🙂
Hosta ‘Guardian Angel’–Right up front, you need to know that this is a very large hosta, with a spread of about three feet and height of two feet before it’s fragrant light lavender blooms appear mid to late summer. The variegation is fascinating, with a marbling of greens, greys and whites that is sure to be a show stopper. The variegation is more pronounced in spring, and its changing hues are fascinating.
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pinky Winky’–This is not your mother’s ho-hum hardy hydrangea–this is a tough plant that can take a good amount of sun and will thrill you with stunning white to pink to red blooms that will persist and change well into the fall. The panicles are pink at the base and continue to lengthen to as much as 16 inches over the course of the season, producing a striking two-toned bloom. Fabulous as an accent plant and great for including in your cut flower vases.
Cercis canadensis ‘Rising Sun’–Everyone loves a redbud for their early spring bloom, but ‘Rising Sun’ keeps on surprising as the season progresses. The new leaves start out a happy apricot color, maturing to a bright yellow and eventually a limey green that shouts “carnival of color.” If you dare, invite this bright performer into your garden.
So many plants, so little time, so invite some some lively performers to your garden party and you are sure to be a hit!