Fornari’s Favorites – 2005

spring baptisia
Blue flowering Baptisia makes a good companion for peonies, poppies, and other early summer bloomers.

september garden The Fusion Exotic Impations share the back terrace with pink Galaxy Pentas and other annuals and perennials. In the background, Asclepias ‘Silky Red’ blooms all summer and attracts a host of butterflies and bees.
purpleheart The Superbena Burgundy threatened to overtake the purple heart in this hot, sandy area next to my driveway.

Once again I sit down to write about my summer favorites and it is nearly impossible to decide which plants to feature. The 2004 selections remain dear to my heart, of course, but you want to hear about something new. You are searching for an evergreen shrub that blooms from April to November, is deer-resistant, completely no-maintenance and hardy to zone 2. Well snap out of it, because no such plant exists.

There are, however, many beautiful plants of merit that you will enjoy tremendously if you just get over your unrealistic expectations and relax. Here are just a few that have made me smile this summer.

Weigela ‘Rubidor’ has bright lime-yellow foliage and dark pink flowers. John Korman, a Long Island plantsman extraordinaire, turned me onto this plant and I have loved it all summer. Like most weigelas it likes full or part sun and needs little attention except a cleanup pruning right after it blooms. ‘Rubidor’ grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, and is hardy to zone 4. I think it is a stunning addition to the back of the perennial garden or the shrub border.

summer baptisia From July until frost, the blue gray Baptisia foliage is stunning in the border; here it is next to Cassia marilandica, another drought tolerant perennial.
wigelia Wigelia ‘Rubidor’ has eye-popping color in the early summer, and lime green foliage the rest of the season.

Also for the rear of the border is a perennial that is shrub-like; this plant never fails to please me, from the early summer when it is in bloom to well into the fall. If you have full or part sun and love perennials that require little care, you must have Baptisia australis.

The blue flowers are pretty in my garden in June, but what I love most about this plant is the handsome blue-grey foliage. Yes, I would grow this plant for the form and foliage alone. Baptisia has a tap root so it is very drought tolerant, and many new varieties are available in assorted flower colors, so what are you waiting for?

And while you’re making your “must have” list for 2006, there are a few annuals you just might want to include. In my part shade garden I loved the Fusion Exotic Impatiens from Ball Horticultural. Fusion Glow (pale yellow with a touch of peach) and Fusion Radiance (pale peach with a touch of coral) grew to large plants that displayed their flowers well above the foliage. The plants were so dense that the weeds didn’t have a chance to grow.

wave petunias The Wave petunias produced bloom after bloom in my part-sun perennial bed, gently filling spaces between the established plants.
fusion glow impatiens Clean green foliage dotted with pale peach flowers…the Fusion Glow impatiens is now on my must-have list.

Equally dense and flower filled was a Superbena from the Proven Winners line of plants. Last year I grew Superbena Blue and I loved it…this year I planted Superbena Burgundy, which is really a bright pink, and I am equally smitten. Combined with purple heart (Setcreasea pallida) the verbena filled a hot, dry area with color that continues as I write this in late September.

Other annuals that are still blooming in the fall are the Wave Petunias that I planted in the perennial garden. I believe that a few annuals and shrubs are absolutely necessary in the perennial bed, and the annuals provide a bridge of color all summer as the other flowers come and go. Wave petunias will continue to be on my shopping list for this purpose, because they don’t require deadheading and they last for the entire season.

So who needs that ever-blooming fairytale shrub when there are so many wonderful plants to try? I can hardly wait until next summer.

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