Thinking Summer with Long Blooming Plants
While Nantucket’s annual town meeting has some folks' knickers in a bunch, those of us in the gardening world are planning for, preparing for and wishing for the warmer weather that will eventually arrive. It’s always an exciting time of year, watching seedlings emerge in the greenhouse, receiving rooted cuttings of old favorites and some new material, new varieties, new colors, new forms.
The greenhouses are filling up with the inexorable advance of everything green. Spots of color and splashes of brightness help elevate our moods, leaving memories of extended power outages, hurricane force winds, impassable roads, and the mixed blessing of cancelled transportation in our wakes. Repairs of winter damage continue, torn greenhouse covers are made whole, furnaces are repaired or replaced, and beat-up infrastructure is mended. The failed wind turbine is gone, shipped in pieces on a boat back to its birthplace. It has been a tough winter.
But there is so much to look forward to. Here are just a few things that my husband, Pete Smith, Bartlett’s Head Grower, is looking forward to planting and growing this year. Digiplexis is a cross between Digitalis purpurea (foxglove) and its southern cousin, Isoplexis canariensis (Canary Island foxglove.) Last year, the only color he grew was Illumination Flame, a variety that lives up to its name. In our garden it was like a foxglove on fire. Tubular, hooded flowers glow with rich pink-fuchsia shades that shift to golden-apricot throats with lavender streaks. This is not the kind of plant you take to the paint store and say “I want to match this color to paint my living room.” Digiplexis provides a stunning display that lasts from early summer through late fall. Multiple side-shoots continue to give color even when the central stalk is done blooming. Illumination Berry Canary is the new variety this year. Vivid violet trumpets have pale pink throats with lilac speckles. It remains to be seen whether these are perennials. Growers at the source say they are hardy in zones 8-11, but I will keep checking my garden to see if it comes up. Even if it doesn’t come back, we will have more in the garden, as Digiplexis is very worthy as an annual, and would look stunning in a robust container!
Other flowering plants that Pete is looking forward to? There are some great perennial Agastache this year. Black Adder has been a popular selection for years. Also known as ‘Hummingbird Mint’ this boasts numerous bottlebrush flowers of vivid blue from July til frost. Blue Boa is a new offering with luxurious deep violet-blue flower spikes on super-green foliage. Summer-blooming and drought-tolerant, Blue Boa is a stunner that will attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
If ‘well-behaved’ is a trait you wish for in a perennial, Agastache Rosie Posie is your plant. It is long- blooming, very colorful, great-smelling, nicely shaped, compact and tidy. The blooms are held right at the tips of the stems so they don’t get swallowed up by the foliage. Two-toned dark purple and pink flowers make it work with lots of other colors, and the length of bloom makes it great for containers, too.
I plan on putting all of these in my gardens this year. A word of caution though…because Digiplexis is poisonous, be sure to plant it where your pets can’t reach it. Deer won’t eat it, so it’s a great choice for areas where deer like to graze. For now, we have to be happy just thinking about summer color because it's just too early to plant perennials and annuals in the ground.