This summer, members of the Birds & Blooms staff were given the opportunity to test out a variety of plants. Below, Ellie Martin Cliffe, associate editor, shares her gardening experience. Be sure to check out more staff reviews here: coleus & petunias, blue spike, full sun container gardening and trouble with critters in the garden.
Before my husband and I had even officially moved into our “new” 1904 bungalow, we were working in the garden, planting, harvesting and watering while a builder tackled a few projects inside. We got lucky: The previous owners seemed to have loved the yard as much as we do, judging from the cared-for gardens. When we entered our contract in March, the perennials were just waking up, so it was a treat to watch them grow and to guess what they’d look like in bloom.
At the same time, plants began to arrive at the Birds & Blooms offices from growers around the country. I received five different varieties. Since few plants were blooming in my new garden, I had no idea what color anything would be, so I planted according to size and hoped nothing would clash. For the most part, I’m glad I took the risk! Here’s what I grew this summer.
Señorita Blanca Spider Flower
My absolute favorite of the plants I tried, this new spider flower (the tall one in the center) is a showstopper. My husband, who’s more of a yard guy than a gardener, even asked me about the unusual and attractive blooms. I was impressed by the dense growth habit — it’s not at all lanky, and the fact that Señorita Blanca has flowered profusely from the time it was a foot tall. I am so excited to have a new go-to tall annual (and cut flower).
Lo & Behold Ice Chip Butterfly Bush
Another 2013 introduction, this butterfly bush is compact and cool-hued (shown bottom left). The lances of white florets last a long time, and though the label says you don’t need to deadhead, I’ve found that doing so really speeds reblooming (I happened to do that earlier this week, but I assure you, the plant often looks like a little white firework). I hope this woody perennial grows a bit taller next year to command the attention it deserves.
Blushing Princess Alyssum
The two Blushing Princess alyssum I received as previews haven’t stopped blooming, even during the hottest, driest weeks. In fact, I had to cut them back twice because they were growing so well. These lightly fragrant pastel beauties stand out in the front of my border, and I’m looking forward to buying more when they hit the market next spring.
Serenita Lavender Pink Angelonia
Another nonstop bloomer, this angelonia is a true winner. It doesn’t need deadheading and the spikes of flowers are a fun addition to bouquets. I hope Serenita blooms well into the fall, because I can’t get enough of its gentle orchid hue.
Hocus Pocus Spike Speedwell
This is the only plant that didn’t perform as expected. It’s a perennial, though, and I know it can take a few years to get up to speed. It never bloomed, but has wonderful dense foliage, and it’s probably 8 inches wide by 3 inches high (much smaller than advertised). I suspect that our incredibly hot summer really stunted its growth. I hope Hocus Pocus works a little more garden magic next year.
What new plants did you try this year? I’d love to know what you thought.