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Compact Plants

February 27, 2008
By Lorraine Hunter


Everyone wants the latest, most unusual plants in their garden and consumer gardening magazines continue to present their lists of the hottest, most must-have perennials, annuals and shrubs.

Compact Plants, in bright shades, unusual shapes top must-have lists for 2007

18Everyone wants the latest, most unusual plants in their garden and consumer gardening magazines continue to present their lists of the hottest, most must-have perennials, annuals and shrubs.
Earlier this season Gardening Life (GL), for example, narrowed the list of must-haves down to 15, dividing the group into three distinct colour ranges. The golden group includes drought-tolerant ‘Green Envy’ coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘Green Envy’), with lime-coloured petals tinged with pink at the base, and ‘Bonfire’ cushion spurge (Euphorbia polychroma ‘Bonfire’) with chartreuse flowers and bright, smoldering foliage, both perennials. Annuals are fibre-optic grass (Isolepis cernua ‘Live Wire’), actually a sedge, with fine blades and tiny silvery-ball-like flowers, and Chloranthus (Lathyrus chloranthus), a lime-yellow sweet pea from Asia Minor. The shrub in this group is ‘Arctic Sun’ dogwood (Cornus sanguinea ‘Cato’) a dwarf plant with intense gold-orange stems and small white flowers in June, set off by green foliage.


Purple picks include perennials ‘Cezanne’ clematis, a vine bred by Raymond Evison for outstanding performance in containers; ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint (Nepeta x faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’), named Perennial Plant of 2007, covered with blue-violet flower spikes above fragrant grey-green foliage; and ‘Xenox’ stonecrop (Sedum ‘Xenox’) with small fleshy leaves on purple stems and rose-pink flowers in late summer. Annuals in this group are shade-loving ‘Brazilian Fireworks’ maracas (Porphyrocoma pohliana) that has exotic red-pink flower clusters with purple wings over long leaves scored with silver, and ‘Sunny Daze’ Paraguay nightshade (Solanum rantonnetii ‘MonRita’) which has leaves splashed with gold brightening to white as they mature and shimmering purple blooms.
Attention-grabbing rosy-hued plants in the GL lineup include perennial ‘Pink Octopus’ bellflower (Campanula ‘Pink Octopus’) with deep pink, lantern-like buds opening to dangling octopus-like flowers, and annual Chinese foxglove (Rehmannia angulata) that have deep pink bell-shaped blooms with spotted throats borne on long, graceful stems. Three shrubs in this group are Disanthus cercidifolius, which resembles a small redbud but is actually a witch hazel relative with blue-green leaves turning a vivid claret suffused with orange in the fall; ‘Pipsqueak’ dwarf burning bush (Euonymus alatus ‘Pipzam’) with blazing crimson fall colour; and ‘Lucy Maud Montgomery’ rose, a delicately scented, blushing pink hybrid tea.

Backyard Living says that people want more compact, smaller plants to fit into smaller gardens, tight spaces and containers, too. The “hot new” plants it lists are three All-America Selection Winners for 2007, including ‘Fresh Look Gold’ celosia, a flowering annual, ‘Rainbow Knock Out’ rose in a rich coral colour, and ‘Pacifica Burgundy Halo’ vinca, an annual to plant in full sun. Other “hotties” on the list are ‘Tropicana Black’ canna which opens red, later mellowing to tangerine orange and ‘Raspberry Tart’ coneflower, a good choice to grow in a container.

The magazine also lists 10 favourite perennials as low-maintenance options for gardeners on the go. They include Japanese anemones (Anemone x hybrida) for late summer; Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica) for late spring; hellebore (Helleborus x hybridus) for late winter through spring; feather reed grass (Calamagrotis x acutiflora) from early spring to late fall; black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) summer through fall; sedum (Sedum species) summer or fall, depending on species; daylily (Hemerocallis) from early summer until first frost, depending on species; phlox, either spring or summer blooming; Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) from summer to early fall; and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) summer through fall.

Canadian Gardening (CG) recently profiled primroses, prized for their outstanding beauty and wide range of heights, colours and types. Included are more than 40 varieties from the following five basic groups:
•    Acaulis, the short early spring blooming plant with rosettes of leaves;
•    Auricula, with large clusters of brightly coloured blooms and thick glossy foliage;
•    Candelabra with tiered rings of flowers on tall stems;
•    Juliana with early spring stems on small, sturdy evergreen plants;
•    Polyanthus with large flower clusters atop long thick stems.

The magazine also featured brunnera, a tough plant with mounds of silver- or white-accented, heart-shaped leaves and blue or white flowers that resemble forget-me-nots. Happiest in a shady, cool, moist woodland setting, this perennial is very hardy and comes in several varieties, including: Brunnera Macrophylla ‘Dawson’s White;’ with small white flowers and dark green foliage; ‘Langtrees’ (syn. ‘Aluminum Spot’) with emerald green foliage mottled with silver-grey and tiny forget-me-not blooms;  ‘Variegata’ with wide, irregular, creamy white margins on grey-green leaves with bright blue blooms; and ‘Silver Wings’ which has marbled foliage with a wispy, silvery overlay and tiny masses of blue flowers.

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