GARDENER’S GARDEN/Nancy Burns – Perennial predictions


Steve Gable, the Horticulturist at Merrifield Garden Center in Merrifield, is a real crystal-ball researcher when it comes to new perennials. He tries to get 20 or more new varieties each year, plants that Merrifield has never carried before.
“Xeriphitic (dry-loving) plants are the new hot item, given the droughts we have had in the DC-area recently. Plants like lavender, santolina, and anise hyssop are easy to grow if the gardener plants them in raised beds or mounds mainly sandy, well-draining soil.”  Problem is that if we have a normal, rainy season they will rot out from the excess moisture.
Hellebores niger  (Christmas white hellebores) are finally being bred to have a little pink in them, a major break through, Steve notes.
In addition to the usual magenta, echinaceas are now being bred to have fragrance, as well as more yellow and apricot colors. This trend continues in breeding shorter coneflower plants.
Daylilies are a huge area where breeders are having much success, not only in re-bloomers, but height and color combinations. Red Hot Returns and When My Sweetheart Returns are two popular ones they will carry this year.
Steve notes that mass plantings of all the same variety not only makes a bigger impact of color, but those plants all take the same care and water thus saving valuable time for gardeners.
Heucheras (coral bells) are now being used a lot in container gardens, where the beautiful leaf color may be seen up close. Also, there is more control with watering when planted in a container, hopefully avoiding winter wet rot. (More on the new heucheras on page 8).
Sounds as though 2008 will be a good year to try some new varieties of old-time favorites!
Nancy Burns of Alexandria is a Certified Master Gardener; Horticulture Information Director of District 2–National. Capital Area Garden Clubs; PresBelle Haven Garden Club President; and Secretary, National Capital Orchid Society.  Please contact