By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries
Yes, spring is right around the corner! In the Pacific Northwest, people are recovering from the worst ice storm in six decades, but by golly, we persevere . . . and so do our plants! This month’s fab-five are all stars of the springtime. Not only do these gems pull folks out of their doldrums during the gray days of winter, but they serve a huge purpose; being the first food of the spring for pollinators. Each of the following five varieties from Terra Nova Nurseries have different flowers that appeal to different pollinators.
Bergenia DRAGONFLY ‘Sakura’ is a near-constant source of satisfaction for our overwintering Anna’s hummingbirds who battle each other for a chance at the nectar-rich blooms. Brunnera ALCHEMY Silver has puffs of blue forget-me-not flowers that attract native bees and syrphid flies as they emerge from their cells and eggs. Huge sousaphones of jade green flowers explode over the firm, nearly plastic-textured foliage of Helleborus ‘Honeyhill Joy’, attracting bees for not only the copious nectar, but the prolific amount of pollen. Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’ draws in the honeybees as well, splurging cobalt-blue trumpets into the spring bug-buffet. Terra Nova’s final candidate, Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’, shoots masses of pink flowers into the hosta understory to attract smaller pollinators like gnats and native bees that thrive on the nectar and pollen bonanza.
Bergenia DRAGONFLY ‘Sakura’
Terra Nova’s DRAGONFLY series of bergenia consists of a group of plants that feature profuse blooms and compact glossy foliage that turns a dark purple in winter. Bergenia DRAGONFLY 'Sakura' is unique as it produces pink, semi-double flowers that remind one of cherry blossoms. Blooming as early as mid-March, it is a great nectar source for the early pollinators, including hummingbirds. It makes a great choice for containers, rock gardens and placement by home-installed waterfalls. In partial shade or full sun, this 12” tall beauty is sought after for the earliest blooms. It is hardy to U.S.D.A. Hardiness Zones 4-9.
This vigorous selection will impress gardeners with its showy silver foliage and great crown count. The leaves of Brunnera ALCHEMY Silver are textured and substantial, and they should hold up well in the southern and northern climates of the United States. Hardy to U.S.D.A. Hardiness Zones 4-9, the silver leaves light up the darkness of a shady or partially shady location in the landscape; too much afternoon sun can harm any brunnera’s foliage. At 18” tall, it makes a striking plant for the mid-border and is often used as a companion planting for hosta. Sprays of sky-blue forget-me-not flowers emerge above the silver leaves and impart a great draw for smaller pollinators.
This hybrid from Honeyhill Farms is exceptional for its quantities of large, outfacing, cream-centered, jade-white flowers over vigorous, shiny, blue-tinged foliage. Plant Helleborus 'Honeyhill Joy' at the entry of a home or garden to enjoy the exceptionally early two-month long show of marvelous, late-winter blooms. Foliage is exceptionally weather-resistant, almost like plastic! This hardy jewel is U.S.D.A. hardy in zones 4-9 and blooms early (after its first winter) in a 4″ pot! If weather permits, it can bloom up to 2’ in late January through March. Growing in shade to full sun, this sterile hellebore is quite long-lived! We give thanks to the late Jim Metcalfe, who’s meticulous breeding and selection gave us this gift to horticulture.
Terra Nova has another classic with Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’, and a recent trip to England showcased its great popularity there. This superb, brightly silver-spotted beauty gives rise to profuse clusters of large cobalt-blue flowers in spring. It is a stunner that is hardy to U.S.D.A. Zones 4-9! Terra Nova feels it is their best true-dark-blue bloomer and the plant grows into a magnificent landscape specimen. The genetics of Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’ are in Pulmonaria longifolia, which is the best form for the South, according to John Elsley, the former horticulture director of Wayside Gardens. Growing to 25” tall and blooming in April and May, it’s a fine addition to the garden.
Still the best pink flowering tiarella from Terra Nova Nurseries! A Terra Nova breeder’s wild outcrosses shot up with this sparkling salute and became an instant favorite. Explosive heads of shrimp-pink are held above the marvelously cut and marked foliage. Fall color in full sun is burnished bronze and in shade it is deep shiny black. Hardy to U.S.D.A. Hardiness Zones 4-9, this lovely plant gets only to 12” tall. Tiarella provides gardens and landscapes early spring color and foliage that emerges before the spears of hosta arise. Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ has flowers that appear in April, and they draw in early pollinators with their color and light fragrance.
Dan Heims is a published author of two books and lectures around the world. In 2003 he won the Reginald Cory Memorial Cup from the Royal Horticultural Society. He was awarded the Award of Merit by the Perennial Plant Association in 2019, and the Luther Burbank Award by the American Horticultural Society in 2020.
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By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners® ColorChoice®
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners® ColorChoice®
Many deciduous plants are starting to transition into a long winter’s nap, creating a skeletal framework. And many have spooky characteristics they just can’t shake.
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