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| November/December 2012 |

janet's journal

Remarkable, unusual plants on my wish list D

uring one recent 7-year stretch, an because.” I do it this way: If a plant happens to be Janet average of 1,500 new plant patents were in a place where I am and has enough distinctive Macunovich registered each year in the U.S. and Canada. character to jump out and hit me in the head, I might Meanwhile, the average plant catalog included 30 to remark, “Now, there’s something unusual. I should 100 “new” items each year. In that mix are species try that, or keep an eye on how it does.” Next, I grow just captured from the wild, selected varieties and it myself or work regularly in a garden where I see it hybrids, and also old items being rediscovered. Some regularly so I can watch its staying power and pest are “new” to everyone, others are new only to the resistance. After a year or three if it proves to have particular grower. vigor and gumption to go with its engaging fresh It’s all too much for me to keep straight, and daunting face, I think about putting it on my “Wish list: New for other green industry proefessionals as well. guys to use.” From that list, in time, some do graduate Yet new is certainly fun and even someone like to my list of regulars, making room on the wish list me, preoccupied with how-to, likes to dabble in novelties “just for additions. For instance, I’m watching and pulling for ‘Autumn Charm’ sedum. It’s so beautiful and upstanding, but I won’t commit to it until it proves itself more stable than other variegated sedums we’ve grown or watched.

Coral bells and foamy bells, for example

’Autumn Charm’ sedum P h oto g r a p h s by S t e v e n N i k k i l a unless otherwise indicated

I have several coral bells on my list of regulars and on the wish list too. My love of coral bells goes back 35 years, to the moment I saw a hummingbird at our seed-grown, green leaf, red-flowered Heuchera sanguinea ‘Firespray.’ Since then, and especially in the last 10 years, dozens if not hundreds of new selections of Heuchera and Heucherella (coral bells crossed with foam flower) have appeared. My take on these new heucheras describes my perspective on new plants overall. Some of the new introductions have been pretty faces that didn’t have the vigor to make it in the rough and tumble of a real garden. Many came from competing breeders and seemed to be duplications. In such a flurry my strategy has been to try some myself, keep an eye on others, and wait a few years to form an attachment to any newbie. In that manner, from the top of the heuchera heap I’m adding to my list for next year’s design work the six-year-old variety ‘Caramel’ (amber-colored foliage). It joins ‘Obsidian’ (purpleblack and almost ten years proven) and ‘Stormy Seas’ (maroon with pewter overtones dependable for over 15 years). I’m still a sucker for coral bells with bright red flowers over green foliage. Neither are plentiful. More colorful leaves are in vogue. The coral bell and foam flower species being used by breeders to strengthen new types don’t have red flowers. So I’ve settled for trying out ‘Hercules’ and ‘Snow Angel’ (with red flowers and white-variegated green leaves). Both show promise in their first couple of years out in the field.

Janet’s Journal continued on page 22

’Obsidian’ coral bells

'Caramel’ coral bells

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