A trio of perennial plant "stars" are lighting up my drought-stricken garden this summer.
Two flowers, ‘Mango Popsicle’ kniphofia from Terra Nova Nurseries and ‘Southern Belle’ echinacea, courtesy of Plants Noveau, are color rock stars and work-free plants.
‘Toscana’ strawberry, a FleuroStar introduction, has unusual red flowers, luscious fruit and is perfect in hanging baskets.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that plant companies send me two to three dozen of their new plants for the next season to test every spring, as a gift. They obviously want me to write and speak glowingly about their products. Frankly, I find very few of them are real gems. And, I don’t hesitate to tell people about the junk.
'Mango Popsicle' kniphofia is a brilliant backdrop for other flowers that blooms all season.
These three plants I received last year, all perennials, have survived winter and are now flourishing in an on-going drought. Orange spikes of knipofia blanket the plant, and if you deadhead the spent blooms, they produce more large spikes. The brilliant color goes well with everything, even pink coneflowers like ‘Southern Belle’. That plant, like most echinacea, is drought-hardy and blooms no matter the weather, hot or cold. There are 27 big flowers on the one plant I have, a bountiful display.
'Southern Belle' coneflower has a huge multi-layered head with a skirt of larger petals, much like a ballet dress.
I was first attracted to ‘Toscana’ strawberry’s clear red flower, which is gorgeous. But, what is really impressive is the plant’s ability to grow runners quickly and produce sweet fruit that has a hint of the wild Alpine strawberry flavor. One plant fills a 10-inch hanging basket and bears about two quarts of berries during the summer. I wintered the basket in the garage, where it went dormant.
Best thing about the new Toscano strawberry is that you can grow it anywhere, including in hanging baskets on your porch or balcony.
If you’ve purchased a ‘Pink Champagne’ pink-fruited blueberry plant, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) urges you to return the plant to the place you bought it. If that isn’t possible, contact the retailer or mail order vendor and request a refund. The USDA issued a recall in late May, stating that they had found the plant does not grow as advertised. Berries are not pink.
Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.