(Family Features) - Each year I vow not to expand my perennial garden because it's already too crowded. Still, each spring I succumb to the desire for new plants. It's tough when there are so many great new perennial flowers and shrubs to choose from. Below I describe five really intriguing new varieties.
"They grow best in full sun or part shade and are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9 unless otherwise noted. Give them a try!"
- 'Merlot' coneflower - "One really hot group of new perennials is the coneflowers (Echinacea)," says Leonard Perry, perennial flower specialist at the University of Vermont. "New coneflower varieties come in some really exciting colors such as red, orange, yellow, and pink, in addition to the standard purple or white. They're also widely adapted for growing in most parts of the country."
The latest addition to the coneflower family features an unusual stem color. Echinacea purpurea 'Merlot' grows three feet tall, produces sturdy, deep-wine-colored stems and fragrant five-inch-diameter flowers that are great for cutting. The stem color contrasts nicely with the rose-pink daisy-like flowers. It's hardy to USDA zone 4.
- 'Blue Moon' wisteria - Gardeners in cold climates often yearn to grow wisteria. The vines may survive cold winters, but they don't flower reliably. But this new Minnesota-bred variety is hardy to -40 degrees F (USDA zone 3)! It not only flowers every year, but blooms repeatedly, two or three times per season. Branches of Wisteria macrostachya 'Blue Moon' grow up to 25 feet long and produce fragrant blue flowers. It needs minimal pruning - just enough to shape the vine.
- 'My Monet' weigela - Weigela is a spring-flowering shrub that typically grows up to six to seven feet tall and wide. If you love weigela but have only a balcony or patio for gardening, welcome Weigela 'My Monet' to your home! It grows just 18 inches tall and wide and features green, pink, and white variegated leaves. After the pink, trumpet-shaped flowers pass, the colorful foliage keeps on delivering until frost. 'My Monet' is hardy to USDA zone 4.
- 'Berry Exciting' corydalis - Plants with yellow leaves have become a favorite of breeders over the past 10 years. New introductions such as 'Goldmound' spirea and 'Golden' mock orange brighten shady areas and offer stirring contrast between flowers and foliage. Corydalis 'Berry Exciting' joins this stimulating group. In spring, spikes of purple flowers rise above the ferny golden foliage. This creeping groundcover reaches just a foot tall and thrives in semi-shade.
- 'Pink Octopus' campanula - Campanulas, or bellflowers, are common perennials, but this new one is unusual. The pink petals resemble the long legs of an octopus as they weep down from the deeply cut leaves, giving this 15-inch plant an eerie appearance. Campanula punctata 'Pink Octopus' shows best planted in the front of a border or in a container where you can admire it's exotic blooms.
Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized garden writer, book author, speaker and radio and television personality, has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery Channel television networks. He is the senior horticulturist and spokesperson for the National Gardening Association (www.garden.org) Chief Gardening Officer for the Hilton Garden Inn.