Fornari’s Favorites – 2004

When I’m asked to name my favorite plant, my standard response is “whatever I looked at ten minutes ago.” I am and out-of-control plant person, after all… how could I pick just one? There are, however, plants that I love the first time I grow them and those that continue to please me year after year. And like most gardeners, I want to share my favorites.

The summer of 2004 brought the return of several old favorites as well as some new plants that have already become “must haves” for the Fornari gardens. As usual, I plant most of my beds with a mix of annuals, perennials, shrubs and grasses, and they all grew quite well this season.

From early spring on, one side of my garden is dominated by three Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, the cascading, clump-forming, golden grass that does so well in part-shade. In April and May, its yellow color and graceful texture drew my eyes away from the flowering plants, and it has continued to attract attention all summer long. I have my golden Hakonechloa grass planted next to some Wieglia ‘Midnight Wine’ shrubs, and the dark foliage of the Wieglia compliments the yellow grass. Purple and yellow foliage plants are always a winning combination in the garden, and this grass and small shrub are perfectly proportioned to mix with annuals and perennials.

My favorite annual by far has been the Fanfare trailing impatiens from the Simply Beautiful plants from Ball Seeds. If you want an easy plant that adds bright pink color all summer, this is a plant for you. The flowers are so large that they resemble a New Guinea impatiens, and they grew well in my afternoon-sun garden. Best of all, they combined well with the perennials in that bed; their form was a good mix with daylilies and other mid-summer bloomers.

Another Simply beautiful plant that excelled for me was the bicolor Pixie mini-impatiens. Normally, I am not drawn to bicolor blooms, but this plant was a cheerful mix of pink and white, and the flowers manage to be both striking and delicate. I found that both the Fanfare trailing and Pixie mini-impatiens to be more interesting than the old standby “busy Lizzies.”

Hakonechloa grass Hakonechloa grass Yes, it’s a short grass with a long name, but Hakonechloa grass is a fantastic plant for a part-sun garden.

Cascading Impatiens Fanfare Cascading Impatiens work well when planted among perennials.
Pixie Mini-Impatiens Easy and cheerful, Simply Beautiful’s bicolor Pixie Mini-Impatiens make a good filler in the front of my part-shade perennial garden. They are growing here in front of one of my favorite late-blooming perennials, the lacy Calamintha nepetoides.
One of the new perennials I planted this summer is a variety of Helenium called ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ True to its name, this sneezeweed came into bloom far earlier than most of its cousins. Peachy-gold flowers that are streaked with orange began to open in mid-July, and continued to bloom without deadheading for seven weeks. This Helenium grows to about 30 inches tall and the flowers are just the right blend of colors to work well with several colors of annuals and perennials.

Daylilies are a delight every summer, and not a year goes by that I don’t sing the praises of my ‘Final Touch’ daylilies. This cultivar is from Terra Nova Nurseries, and it wins my heart first because of the bright, clear colors (no muddy, orange tones here!) and secondly because it starts to bloom when other daylilies are passing by. The coral-pink flowers (with a lime yellow throat) come into bloom in late July, and last well into the fall. It is not unusual in my garden to have the ‘Final Touch’ daylilies in bloom through the month of September!

And speaking of September… I am particularly fond of my cutting garden at this time of year. The Dahlias and Zinnias are abundant, and they are well complimented by the stiff purple Verbena bonariensis, and the Queen Anne’s Lace-like flowers of the self-seeding Ammi visnaga ‘Green Mist’. Stick them in a basket with some rosehips from a Rosa glauca, and you have a glorious celebration of the end of summer. A garden planted with all of these beauties in my garden is truly something to celebrate!

Helenium This new cultivar of Helenium is called ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ and it is valuable for it’s mid-range height, early flowering, and long period of bloom.
Terra Nova daylilyAttention growers: You should be growing this Terra Nova daylily so that more gardeners can plant it! It’s one of the stars in my Aug and Sept garden.
zinnias and dahlias Nothing says late summer like a huge bouquet of zinnias and dahlias.
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