By Vicki Spencer, Master Gardener
Every summer my garden becomes more and more robust. Over time, my plants have become established and perennials continue to spread and fill in spaces. This is handy for someone who doesn’t like weeding, but I am constantly thinning plants and expanding garden borders to include new flower varieties. Here are some of my favorites this year:
There are three All-America Selections trial winners that caught my attention this spring. Main Street Beale Street coleus was the first coleus to be named a winner and the title was well-deserved. The lush, bushy plant holds its deep red foliage throughout the season. It’s ideal for any garden as it can be grown in full sun or shade.
American Gold Rush rudbeckia is another winner. It’s a compact, dome-like plant with narrow leaves and a multitude of blossoms. It makes a great border plant as it seems to repel deer. If you are looking for a butterfly magnet, the third winner, Sombrero® Baja Burgundy echinacea, has vibrant red flowers that bloom from midsummer to the first frost in fall.
My other favorites include Cuphea honeybells and Daucus carota “Dara.” Cuphea honeybells features long-blooming, tubular-shaped, rose-red flowers that blend into yellow tips. They are drought tolerant and attract hummingbirds and other pollinators. Dara is a beautiful long-stemmed flower with feathery foliage topped by airy flowers that will add contrast to the AAS winners already mentioned. The tiny flowers, ranging from deep burgundy to blush pink, are also lovely additions to indoor bouquets. You can sow seeds now for summer-to-fall blooms.
Another plant with interesting foliage is Heuchera Northern Exposure™ “Sienna.” It is a perfect perennial border plant with light green leaves that change during the summer to orange-chartreuse with a pronounced red vein pattern. In addition to enjoying the foliage, you will be delighted when wispy flowers suddenly appear.
Proven Winners® also introduced a new ground cover: Rock ‘N Grow® “Boogie Woogie.” It has variegated leaves and yellow flowers that bloom in early summer. It is perfect for hot, sunny spaces. Rainbow Rhythm® “Sound of My Heart” daylily is another Proven Winners® plant that can survive harsh Colorado conditions. It produces stunning 5-inch, pastel pink flowers with wide, purple eyes and matching purple on the tips of ruffled petals. If you love bleeding hearts, you should try Dicentra “Pink Diamonds,” which is a smaller alpinetype plant with blue-green, fern-like foliage that explodes with flowers. It does best in full sun and doesn’t mind our dry climate.
Finally, if you are looking for something unique and have space, I recommend the AAS edible winner, Pumpkin Blue Prince. Its vigorous vines produce blue, flattened pumpkins that provide an interesting contrast. As a bonus, its deep orange flesh is tender and delicious when baked.
If you are like me, it’s hard to resist the latest flower varieties. Even if you don’t really need more plants, trying something new is half the fun of gardening.
Gardener Vicki Spencer has an eclectic background in conservation, water, natural resources and more.