Spring comes eventually every year, though many of us might be forgiven for thinking that 2018 was going to be the exception. Now, here it is mid-May, and plants and gardens everywhere are rushing to make up for lost time by bursting into growth and flower.
That must mean it’s time to roll out our list of our Top 10 perennials for the season!
In making this list each year, I take into consideration my personal experience along with the opinion of our team of growers, perennial experts and salespeople at both Heritage Perennial locations. With hundreds of new introductions to the industry each year, we’ve got lots to do, sorting through many trial garden results and industry publications to find the best new items.
1. Allium ‘Millenium’
The 2018 Perennial Plant of the Year, as chosen by the members of the Perennial Plant Association. First introduced in 2000, this plant has had almost two decades to prove its great value in gardens across North America. Which attributes make it so good? Great foliage all year, virtually pest and problem free, very hardy, low maintenance, very pollinator friendly, late summer blooming…the list goes on and on. Read all about it here.
2. Dianthus ‘Key Lime Pie’
The American Pie™ series of hardy pinks is another breeding success from the peerless UK Dianthus breeding firm of Whetman® Pinks. A focus on cold and drought tolerance, compact habit, scent and garden performance has ensured that Whetman® varieties have been awarded the highest accolades. While all varieties in the American Pie™ series share attributes such as sturdy stems, single, long-lasting cut-flowers and repeat blooming, we’re taken by the unique green apple centers of the pure white blooms on ‘Key Lime Pie’. Besides that, who doesn’t love key lime pie? Rated Zone 5 (though quite possibly hardier).
3. Dicentra spectabilis ‘Valentine’
This is such a great plant that I am surprised I’ve never included it in a Top 10 list. Perhaps that’s because bleeding hearts are such a mainstay of gardeners everywhere in the world. This improved form is just as reliable and colourful as the traditional form, but features true-red flowers on dark red stems, on a much more compact plant. It really is a winner in more ways than one, winning first prize in several international perennial evaluations. On an interesting side-note, gardeners Phyllis and Lyle Sarrazin of Prince George, British Columbia, spotted this as a chance seedling in their garden. It always pays to keep an eye out for new things in your garden. Zone 3.
4. Echinacea ‘Green Twister’
Jelitto Perennial Seeds of Germany, one of the world’s great perennial seed houses, introduced this exciting new variety of Echinacea in 2017. As the originators of the award winning ‘Magnus’ and other coneflower varieties, Jelitto is well qualified to identify winning varieties, and they’re very excited about this one. ‘Green Twister’ introduces a very unique colour scheme with green, light green, to yellow-edged petals surrounding a carmine-red center with a large cone. Being seed-produced, variations such as dark burgundy stems and the occasional extra large petal count can be seen. Unique, unusual and reliable. Zone 4.
5. Paeonia ‘Haleigh’s Hallelujah’
Hallelujah indeed for Itoh (also known as interspecific hybrid) peonies! These spectacular plants combine the best of both of their parent’s into one powerhouse performance. We’re not sure who Haleigh is, but her namesake produces gorgeous pink blooms. As they mature, the deep pink flowers fade to cream with pink edging. Secondary flowers after the main flush of blooms are a bonus. Zone 3.
6. Phlox ‘Forever Pink’
First of all, let’s agree there are a lot of phlox species, varieties and hybrids out there. One of the reasons for their popularity is their ability to wow with masses of brilliant colour. Dr. Jim Ault at the Chicago Botanic Garden obviously loves phlox, since his breeding program has generated some spectacular new forms. ‘Forever Pink’, one of his recent introductions, is taller than the creeping forms, but much more compact than the typical garden phlox. Plants are dense and clump-forming and remain upright all season. Disease resistance, large flowers, June bloom time and repeat flowering well into October round out the list of exceptional attributes. Clip off the spent flowers of the initial peak bloom to maximize rebloom. Zone 4.
7. Pulmonaria ‘Shrimps on the Barbie’
The very busy plant breeders at Terra Nova Nurseries never stop their pipeline of new perennial introductions. From early on, Pulmonaria was one of the genera they focused on improving. This variety produces unusual coral-pink flowers on a vigorous spreading plant. Bright green, spotted foliage is mildew, rabbit and deer-resistant. If cut back hard immediately after blooming, a second flush of healthy, attractive foliage is the reward. A showy and dependable spring bloomer for your shady garden or light woodland. Zone 4.
8. Salvia Sallyrosa™ ‘April Night’
There are a great number of sages grown in gardens throughout the world. Many are tough, reliable, drought tolerant and colourful. As a result, there are lots of breeders working on new varieties to improve on existing old standards. ‘April Night’ blooms about a month earlier than the old workhorse ‘May Night’, and has a much denser, stronger growing habit. Deep blue flowers continue into early June. Zone 5.
9. Hakonechloa macra ‘Sunflare’
Japanese forest grass is a classic, well-behaved and choice garden plant. This stunning, recently introduced Canadian cultivar brings foliage colours never before seen on Hakonechloa. Cascading vibrant chartreuse leaves become intensely golden-yellow if grown in bright sun. Fall foliage adds burnt-orange and burgundy-red to the gold and chartreuse base. Growth is neat and compact, exhibiting the graceful, cascading foliage of the genus. Zone 5.
10. Sempervivum (Hen-and-chicks)
Wait, you say, Sempervivum have been around forever, and besides, this is a genus, not a single variety. Yes, I say, you’re right, but you are missing the point. Succulents are the hottest thing in gardening right now, and hen-and-chicks are some of the hardiest, most dependable, and colourful examples. Whether they’re sold in our Rock Star® pots, our Garden Gladiator™ line, or in our blue Heritage Perennials® pots, you can be sure to find a perfect spot in your garden/container/patio/green roof/ etc, for these fabulous plants. With hundreds of varieties available, you’ll be sure to find plenty to love. Zone 3.