Beyond the hype: plants that exceed expectations
These plants are winners. They toughed out the winter and performed well in summer, too.
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These are not benign gifts. I receive them free, because companies want me to write and lecture about them. However, it takes an outstanding plant to thrive here and for me to recommend. Very few make the cut.
My climate is tough. I live out in the country away from urban heat sinks. Here, winter temperatures regularly dip below zero, even during the day. Deep snow packs often melt in January, and more heavy snow falls after the bare ground thaws a bit. Spring comes late, and freezes are not unknown on Memorial Day.
I don’t consider an annual a winner until it performs successfully two years in a row and don’t judge perennials or roses until their third season.
Some in 2009 exceeded my expectations and dazzled visitors to my garden:
‘Tiger Eye’ Rudbeckia hirta and ‘Snow Princess’ Lobularia were annual knockouts. Each proved cold-hardy (especially ‘Tiger Eye’), required no maintenance other than watering occasionally, and flowered nonstop.
The golden rudbeckia [see Photo No. 1 above] bloomed constantly from late May, when I set it out, until Halloween, despite freezing nights. It's a colorful, drought-tolerant landscape plant and its cut flowers stay fresh in vases for up to two weeks. Although an annual, ‘Tiger Eye’ drops seeds, and many sprouted the next spring.
‘Snow Princess’ is the most vigorous large-flowering alyssum I’ve ever seen. And fragrant! Hummingbirds and butterflies flocked to the basket of ‘Snow Princess’ hanging in front of my kitchen window, much to my delight. One tiny plant filled the basket and flowered continuously. Plants put in the ground did the same, creating three-foot-diameter blankets.
A third annual astounded me. ‘Sunpatiens’, the full-sun impatiens, grew into 30-inch mounds quickly and bloomed all season. [See photo at left.] Flowers were deep, intense hues and smothered the plants. They did well in half shade, too. Check out Jimmy Turner’s report on how this heat and sun lover performed at the Dallas Arboretum in Texas.