Now that the garden has gently shifted into architecture and mush, it’s time to reflect on the plants we grew this season and decide whether we’ll continue to grow them for seasons to come.
Whether sexy new introductions or old favorites, plants excite each one of us for totally different reasons and what lights up my world may only cast a weak CFL shadow on yours, so before I share my favorites from this year, I’ll also share the characteristics that make me sit up and take notice:
For ornamentals, it must thrive in the vagaries of my Mid-Atlantic Zone 7 climate which taketh away just as much as it giveth. The General Wow Factor (GWF), must be high, as evidenced by how often I find myself standing in front of it grinning. I’m looking for a strong foliage presence, whether for shape, color, texture or height; and if it flowers, a good balance between blooms and structure. Envy also plays a tiny role. I’m not going to pretend I don’t relish the sound of “What is THAT?!?”
For edibles, the production vs. work ratio must be well-balanced and it should display well in the garden and on the plate – – but I value taste above all else.
Characteristics that don’t interest me:
- How ridiculously rare it is.
- How difficult it is to grow.
- How it would be beautiful if it were grown somewhere else.
Thus, I give you my top performers this year in three categories: ornamental perennials & shrubs, ornamental annuals/half-hardy perennials, and edibles. Next year I’ll try to convince my editor I need more copy space for bulbs & conifers. Most photos were taken in my garden, but every once and awhile I completely neglect to capture a beautiful plant on film and must rely on the photos of others.
Why am I using Latin names you ask, irritably? Because if I recommend sword fern, I want to make sure that you know I’m talking about Nephrolepis obliterata, not Polystichum munitum which both go by that name. (It’s an old argument and I’m not giving up – Google will make it less painful for you and common names are used as well.)
Some are new introductions for 2018 (perk of being a garden columnist), some are old favorites, and some may have been completely forgotten by the trade (which is why we should always go to plant swaps).
However they got into my garden, they absolutely stood out once they were there.
Favorite ornamental perennials & shrubs
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Baby Lace®’ – I don’t take the job of recommending a new panicle hydrangea lightly. There are many out there and if you can see the form of the plant through the ridiculously large clusters of blossom, you’re lucky. The compact variety ‘Baby Lace’ strikes a terrific balance, and as a bonus, is a very strongly stemmed plant. Better than ‘Little Lime’ in my opinion. Sun/pt. shade.