By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries
Well campers, you’ve survived the panic of springtime and you can rest on your laurels and enjoy the spectrum of summer unfolding before you. While Terra Nova Nurseries had its share of calamities, such as wildfires, COVID-19 restrictions, ice storms, power outages, and generator failures, we have emerged on the other side, stronger and ready for whatever the future doles out. The gardens at Terra Nova are simply ablaze in August; swaths of echinacea, kniphofia, phygelius, and sedum in flower are framed by the sumptuous foliage of heuchera. Once again, this article will cover five Terra Nova varieties, some classic, some quite new.
Let’s start with a special coneflower: Echinacea PRIMA Ruby. Rather than being a background plant, this little gem is meant for the foreground, beautiful to sandwich with a medium-height grass like festuca, helictotrichon or schizachrium, and then finish with a taller kniphofia or another echinacea. As for the accompanying echinacea, we suggest something from the Hawaiian series to provide contrast. Heuchera ‘Chocolate Ruffles’ is a bold, chocolatey classic, perfect to intertwine with the POCO series of red-hot-pokers. Another great heuchera, FOREVER Purple, flaunts its amazingly purple leaves in summer, providing a color wheel opposite of orangey echinacea or kniphofia. Another knockout for the foreground is our dwarf orange poker plant best suited for the front of the border; Kniphofia POCO ‘Orange’. For a gem in a bit of shade, Rodgersia ‘Bronze Peacock’ not only provides solid, fan-shaped and bronze foliage, but lovely pink flowers in June. Rodgersia are water-lovers, so plant them in a peaty compost if possible.
Echinacea PRIMA Ruby
This new plant’s compact, free-flowering habit is perfect for pots or front borders; Echinacea PRIMA Ruby will wow you with a fantastic blooming performance in its first year. This plant forms multiple crowns, which produce a massive display of ruby-toned flowers that increase every year. Hardy to U.S.D.A. Plant Hardiness Zone 4, this gem will attain a diminutive dimension of 15” by 15” in its first year. Bloom time begins in June and goes all the way to October! Echinacea PRIMA Ruby works well with amber and orange tones, as seen in plants like kniphofia and other echinacea. Pair this with ice-blue fescues for an impactful combination!
Heavily ruffled leaves of rich, yummy chocolate on top and deep burgundy on the bottom create a warm contrast of color. Thousands of small purplish flowers on strong purple spikes continue the show. One of our first and finest, and still in amazing demand, this heat/humidity tolerant heuchera thrives in zones 4-9 gardens across the country. Heuchera ‘Chocolate Ruffles’ has become a landscaper's staple! Look for a height of 12” while out of bloom and 30” while in bloom. Flowers emerge between early-June to July. This plant tolerates full sun, but it prefers a little protection from hot afternoon sun.
Terra Nova’s breeders tried so hard to name this something else, but they all came back to the name FOREVER Purple for one very simple reason; It is forever purple! Heuchera FOREVER Purple is truly a hardy knockout with ultra-purple, glossy leaves with fluted edges and great vigor. Very short 15” spikes of purple-pink flowers bloom in May through September, and Heuchera FOREVER Purple’s foliage gives four seasons of purple. It is a true showstopper! While tolerating full shade, it’s best in a partial to full sun exposure. Heuchera FOREVER Purple is destined to become the new standard for purple foliage perennials. Look for a 22” spread its first season.
The folks from Terra Nova Nurseries blew away the kniphofia market by instituting marked improvements in the genus: attractive foliage, reblooming tendency and brilliant flowers. These traits were first seen in the Kniphofia Popsicle series, and the Kniphofia POCO series was bred for very short, grassy leaves and a compact habit. Kniphofia POCO ‘Orange’ reaches 14” in foliage height and 21” in bloom. This plant is great for the small garden or for a mass-effect in the border. Flowers are burnished orange with hot red tips. Hummingbirds and other pollinators love it! This plant is hardy in zones 6-9. Expect a flowering period from July through October.
What could Terra Nova’s breeders do for a rodgersia? For starters, they bred a plant with much thicker foliage than average. This allowed the shiny, bronzy beauty that is Rodgersia ‘Bronze Peacock’ to be used in more situations. It also helped create the darkest foliage of any rodgersia in the market. The leaves are thick, glossy, indented, and make a great sculptural addition to a woodland garden or along the side of a creek or pond. Lacy pink flowers emerge in late spring above the mound. Hardy in zones 5-8, this beauty will have a spread of 28” its first year and can sport flower spikes to 50” in June.
Dan Heims is an award-winning author who lectures throughout the world. He 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, and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Reginald Cory Cup for advancements in breeding.