Con­sider peren­ni­als for plant­ing in spring

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - RUTH HEP­NER

I’m sit­ting here in my lit­tle of­fice read­ing a peren­nial plant cat­a­log in­stead of do­ing laun­dry. I like dis­cov­er­ing what’s new each spring. What I’m pe­rus­ing now is a list of a dozen peren­ni­als be­ing of­fered for the first time by Babikow Green­houses, a whole­sale grower in Bal­ti­more that sup­plies plants to gar­den cen­ters and land­scape con­trac­tors through­out the Washington area.

All but one on this year’s list are or­na­men­tal na­tive plants, which means they are happy and re­li­able in their habi­tat with min­i­mum need for water be­yond nor­mal rain­fall. They gen­er­ally are re­sis­tant to in­sects and dis­eases.

Many on the list are new va­ri­eties of old fa­vorites. So it is with the hosta, the clas­sic peren­nial for shade and the one on the list that is not a na­tive plant, but which re­quires as lit­tle main­te­nance.

Babikow of­fers 20 va­ri­eties of hosta with re­li­able sum­mer flow­ers and pretty fo­liage. The new va­ri­ety is hosta Kap­i­tan. It is dif­fer­ent from most oth­ers, which have huge, heart-shaped leaves. Kap­i­tan has nar­row, ruf­fled leaves with dark green borders and bright yel­low cen­ters. It has vi­o­let flow­ers in July on 12-inch stems, shorter than other hostas, which can grow to 2 or 3 feet. The Kap­i­tan grows in dense mounds, ideal for borders.

The good news is that hostas come back year af­ter year and are eas­ily di­vided to give you more. The bad news is that deer gob­ble them up.

Three peren­ni­als on Babikow’s new-for2012 list are va­ri­eties of the na­tive ver­bena. These are ver­bena has­tata Blue Spires, Pink Spires and White Spires. They are clump­form­ing up­right peren­ni­als for sun with flow­ers of dark blue, bright pink or clear white from July un­til Septem­ber, 3 to 4 feet tall.

Babikow de­scribes them as a “short-lived peren­nial that read­ily self-sows where happy.” Plants that spread from seeds can cre­ate an in­for­mal cot­tage-gar­den look, but it might take a few sea­sons for the seedlings to flower. An or­na­men­tal grass on the list is pan­icum vir­ga­tum Rot­strahlbusch, a red switch grass for sun, 3 to 4 feet tall and tol­er­ant of any soil type and wet or dry con­di­tions. Babikow says its “red fo­liage be­comes more in­tense as sum­mer ad­vances and is out­stand­ing in the fall.” It blooms in Au­gust.

For an early spring wild­flower gar­den, Babikow of­fers a va­ri­ety of the dwarf iris cristata with larger flow­ers called Pow­der Blue Gi­ant. It blooms in April or May in part sun and has pale blue flow­ers 6 to 8 inches tall, with deeper blue ac­cents and yel­low crests. Oth­ers on the list are:

Agas­tache au­ran­ti­aca x Tango, a hy­brid for full sun with 14-inch fiery orange flower spikes and gray-green aro­matic fo­liage. It at­tracts hum­ming­birds, but­ter­flies and hon­ey­bees. It blooms June to Oc­to­ber.

Aster spectabilis, a na­tive aster for sun that has vi­o­let flow­ers with yel­low cen­ters 12 to 24 inches tall. It does well in dry, sandy soil and grows in fields and along road­sides.

Astilbe Delfi Lace, a mid­sum­mer bloomer for part shade. Babikow says it has “clus­ters of deep salmon-pink buds that open to a soft apricot pink” with “waxy, deep-blue-green fo­liage with a light sil­ver over­lay.” It grows 36 inches tall and is among 23 astilbe va­ri­eties Babikow grows. Astilbes pre­fer rich, moist soil.

Echi­nacea pur­purea is the na­tive pur­ple cone­flower with rose pink flow­ers all sum­mer in sun. Tough, re­li­able, drought tol­er­ant, easy to grow in av­er­age to dry soil, it at­tracts but­ter­flies.

Pachysan­dra procum­bens, called Al­legheny spurge, it is the na­tive va­ri­ety of the old-fash­ioned ground cover. It has var­ie­gated fo­liage and pink flower spikes in April, and bronze fall fo­liage. It likes shade and moist soil.

Spigelia mar­i­landica is a tal, na­tive peren­nial for sun with trum­pet-shaped flow­ers in red­dish pink with yel­low throats that bloom all sum­mer.

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