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Perennial planters have more to choose from

Spring Home & Garden

Perennial planters have more to choose from

Poppy, peony, perennial geranium. Iris, foxglove, dianthus. All of those and more are flowering in
Perennial planters have more to choose from
Union College Horticulturist, Connie Schmitz with herbaceous perennial peony in Jackson Gardens on the college grounds.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Poppy, peony, perennial geranium. Iris, foxglove, dianthus.

All of those and more are flowering in area perennial gardens, their names as pleasing to the ear as their blooms are to the eye.

Once planted, perennials grace the garden year after year and will typically thrive with a minimal amount of maintenance.

Garden centers are buzzing right now with people in search of new plants to add to their perennial beds.

Although classic varieties are always popular sellers, gardeners now have more choices than ever, thanks to hybridization. New varieties of echinacea, commonly called coneflower, are selling well at Schultz Greenhouse in Glenville, according to Mark Schultz, one of the owners.

“They used to just come in pink and white; now they come in a variety of different colors, like oranges and reds and just really bright, vivid magenta colors,” he said.

Daisies are following suit; Schultz said they can now be purchased with yellow petals and double petals, as well as in dwarf varieties.

Irises also have many new faces.

“They’ve done unbelievable things to irises in the last five, 10 years,” said Kenny Barnett, a sales and horticulture specialist at Kulak’s Nursery and Landscaping in Rexford. “It’s hard to recognize an iris sometimes.”

Newer varieties have larger flowers, frilly edges and even double flowers.

Coral bells, a classic shade perennial, are also being bred for greater variety. Traditionally seen with green or burgundy leaves, the new varieties have marbled foliage or leaves that unfurl in chartreuse or orange, Schultz said.

“With shade plants, they try to breed the leaves so that they look real nice, because in the shade areas, it’s hard to get things to bloom, so they just go for textures and colors,” he said.

Selling well at Kulak’s is the Japanese primrose. It’s nothing new but isn’t typically a garden center staple.

“It’s a multi-tiered flower. It blooms in levels, and it’s really neat. We had a deep scarlet one, and I couldn’t keep them here,” Barnett said, noting he has more on order.

Rose lovers have been snapping up Knock Out roses, noted Schultz. The disease-resistant variety has been gaining in popularity over the past several years.

“Once the Japanese beetles come, they actually don’t go to the Knock Outs, and [the Knock Outs] don’t get the spots that the other types do,” he said.

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