African Garden + winter

'09 Best of the Garden - New Additions

As we kiss off say goodbye to 2009, it's time to look back at the best of the gardening year. Here are the new plants that stood out from the crowd and distinguished themselves here at Squirrelhaven.

Clockwise from top left: Heuchera 'Frosted Violet,' Caryopteris 'Jason' (Sunshine Blue), Geranium 'Bob's Blunder,' Papaver paeoniflorum 'Black Peony,' Dianthus 'Cranberry Ice.' Center: Geranium 'Blogold' (Blue Sunrise) with Lettuce 'Merlot.'

Some of them I haven't mentioned often, such as the Heuchera 'Frosted Violet.' This is now my new favorite, displacing 'Raspberry Ice' in my affections. 'Frosted Violet' may have slightly less showy flowers, but the foliage stays much darker and the plants bloom longer and more profusely.

I didn't expect the Caryopteris to bloom as long as it did, and then I was surprised by how attractively the bracts aged. It is borderline hardy here, so I'm crossing my fingers that it will make it through the winter.

I've raved about Geranium 'Bob's Blunder,' a small plant with small flowers, but such beautiful dark foliage and such an extended bloom time. For latest bloom, it beat out all the other Geraniums here at Squirrelhaven, including 'Gerwat' (Rozanne). Coming in a close second is Geranium 'Blogold,' which is like a bleached blonde Rozanne. The new foliage kept the bright chartreuse, while the older foliage became more green during the summer. On the whole, it is a very striking plant all season long.

I've gushed over the Poppy ad nauseum; it will be making a return appearance next year. Another annual that will be making a return appearance is Lettuce Merlot. Tasty, beautiful and healthy, I couldn't ask for more in an edible plant.

I've never grown Dianthus, so I have no standard by which to compare 'Cranberry Ice.' What I can say is that its glaucous (bluish) foliage looked great all season, and the plant was in bloom until the freeze knocked it out in October.

What were your top performers this year?

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'09 Best of the Garden - New Additions + winter