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A Rainbow of Garden Choices

A Rainbow of Garden Choices

By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries
Photographs courtesy of TERRA NOVA® Nurseries, Inc.

Hey campers, the air is crisp, the leaves are turning and it’s too early to think of sugarplums, so let’s just talk about some cool plants for the garden in a rainbow of colors.

Bergenias, or “pig-squeaks” are an underappreciated group providing massive spring flower displays, year-round foliage and winter color. They are tolerant of moist soils but thrive in a rockery. Terra Nova’s introduction has very small leaves due to its heritage from ‘Pink Dragonfly’, a brilliant form introduced by Rosemarie Eskuche in Germany.

Turning the color dial to cobalt blue, we reach Dan Hinkley’s great form of Corydalis rosthornii called ‘Blue Heron’ (after Heronswood Nursery). It is not a C. flexuosa type that is more particular about siting, and gives a great, long show of cobalt blue jewel-like blooms.

Click! Let’s turn the dial to burning amber foliage and ‘Valentine’ red flowers. Yes, we’re talking dicentra (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) ‘Ruby Gold.’ Here’s a form that will light up your early spring garden. Providing you give it summer moisture; it will persist for the whole season.

Click! Long cool-silver leaves with color changing pink to blue flowers, enter our spectrum of color. Pulmonaria ‘High Contrast’ does a fabulous job of brightening up shady spaces with the promise of the first nectar of the spring. Ask a hummingbird!

Click! Move the dial to the darkest emerald green and we have another color gem for shady places; Tiarella SYLVAN™ Lace. Lacelike palmate leaves are etched by black-brown coloration and give rise to frothy pink flowers in spring. Now, for the rest of the story!

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Bergenia DRAGONFLY™ ‘Angel Kiss’

Soft, sweet, semi-double, white to light pink flowers in great abundance give value to an old garden favorite. A perfect companion to 'Pink Dragonfly'. DRAGONFLY™ 'Angel Kiss' is just as easy to grow, and really lights up an early spring garden with grace and sophistication. Twelve inch tall winter foliage is a very dark wine-red. In early spring, it is the perfect contrasting foil for the charming flowers that emerge 15 inches tall in March as snow-white and then take on a light pink glow. Very choice, amazingly easy. This bergenia is bred from cold-hardy plants that grow in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4-9. Great in partial to full sun.

Learn more: Bergenia DRAGONFLY™ Angel Kiss

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Corydalis ‘Blue Heron’

Our darkest blooming corydalis features the largest flowers in our collection! Dark, gem-like gentian-blue flowers float nine inches atop stunning red stems and are enhanced by the blue-green foliage. This form bloomed all spring and summer for us in Oregon (May through July). A marvelous corydalis collected in Sichuan, China by Mr. Dan Hinkley. This variety is hardy in zones 6-8 and prefers full shade to partial shade. Fun to plant with bold foliage varieties like Terra Nova’s pulmonaria or heuchera. It prefers well-draining, even sandy soils with added compost. Corydalis will go summer dormant if it is kept too dry or hot.

Learn more: Corydalis 'Blue Heron'

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Dicentra/Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Ruby Gold’

This is the first gold foliage dicentra with true red flowers. Developed from purposeful breeding, all other gold foliage varieties have been mutations. The stems are strong and upright, the flowers are large and numerous, but the color…WOW! Brilliant red with a touch of unusual orange! This has a great container habit and is long lasting in the garden; a vast improvement over the still popular 'Gold Heart'. The marvelous, lacy amber-gold foliage reaches a height of 26 inches and extends another six inches while in flower. This bleeding heart is bred from cold-hardy plants that grow in zones 4-8. Exceptional vigor.

Learn more: Dicentra 'Ruby Gold'

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Pulmonaria ‘High Contrast’

It boasts brilliantly contrasting foliage and one of the best track records of all Terra Nova pulmonaria in the hot summers of the Midwest and South. Large pink flowers fade to blue over mildew-resistant foliage. The flowers emerge from the center of the plant like an African violet. Nice mounding habit to 18 inches wide by nine inches tall. The wavy, spear-shaped leaves are dark green, infused with melting silver. Hardiness is in the zones of 4-9. Happiest in full to partial shade. Blooming from April to May, it provides a rich nectar source loved by bumblebees and hummingbirds. Try in a large container with tiarella and heuchera.

Learn more: Pulmonaria 'High Contrast'

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Tiarella SYLVAN™ Lace

This tiarella has a vigorous, compact habit with beautifully patterned leaves that are extremely cut. The foliage is clean looking and forms a low, spreading mound, nine inches tall and 18 inches wide. The 16 inch tall flowers bloom in May and June in lovely white spikes. This plant’s hardiness is in the zonal range of 4-9. Tiarellas like this one are excellent in containers, spilling over the edges and combining beautifully with heuchera or other bold foliage. The author finds tiarella such as SYLVAN™ Lace are the perfect foil for hostas, adding contrast and texture while finding places to root amongst the clumps. Best planted in full to partial shade.

Learn more: Tiarella SYLVAN™ Lace

Dan Heims is president of Terra Nova Nurseries. He is an award-winning author who lectures throughout the world and was recently honored by The American Horticultural Society with the Luther Burbank Breeding Award, as well as the Perennial Plant Association’s Award of Merit. He was honored by receiving the Royal Horticultural Society’s Reginald Cory Cup for advancements in breeding. Learn more: www.terranovanurseries.com.


All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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