Fornari’s Favorites 2008


Early in the season the foliage of this perennial is a bright yellow, becoming a combination of yellow and lime when the dark pink flowers come into bloom.

The planting season was a blur of activity this summer. Since we moved to Poison Ivy Acres this year we’ve had hundreds of plants to get into the ground. It’s often hard to judge how things are doing when they are in a new landscape, but there are some annuals, shrubs and perennials that stand out even as newbies.

Despite the newness of the garden there were plants and combinations that stood out, and these are what I’m calling Fornari’s Favorites for 2008.

There are several Persicarias that I love, but this year Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Golden Arrow’ has completely captured my heart. This perennial is hardy to zone 5 and it does best in part-sun or part-shade. The lime/yellow foliage grew to about 20 inches high and there were dark pink flowers above those leaves from late July to October. I have this plant in two places, and the plants that get morning sun and afternoon shade did the best. The plants in full sun got sunburned and they will get moved next spring.


This shrub is only three years old but it put on about three feet of growth this summer. Plant it where it will catch the morning or evening sun and even the stems will glow.

My favorite annual this year was Iresine ‘Blazin’ Lime’. This Ball Floraplant is part of the Simply Beautiful line of plants. If you want a “wow!” plant in your garden, this is it! When I had the other employees of the garden center over for a company picnic this summer, ‘Blazin’ Lime’ was the plant everyone asked about.

Iresine ‘Blazin’ Lime’ grew about 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide in my garden, and it did equally well in several locations – full sun and part sun. I planted it with some time-release fertilizer in May and otherwise I didn’t touch it all summer other than a once a week watering if it didn’t rain. Given that treatment it was splendid. Watch for this plant: it would be great in large containers as well as in annual and perennial gardens.

My favorite combo of the summer was a planting of silky Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feather grass) interplanted with first year Verbascum olympicum. Behind this was the Iresine ‘Blazin’ Lime’ which was in front of a purple foliaged Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Center Glow’. This combination shows the power of foliage color and texture: next year the Verbascum will come into bloom, but it isn’t really necessary: the garden was beautiful without any flowers at all.

Three shrubs made my favorites list this year: the aforementioned Physocarpus, a Hydrangea and a Daphne. I loved the Hydrangea ‘Pinky Winky’, despite a name that is too cute for such a sophisticated plant. Mine is only three years old but it bloomed all summer and had great fall foliage color as well. A fantastic new variety of Hydrangea paniculata, so you know it’s hardy and blooms on new growth.


Crisp white and green leaves and flowers all summer – what more could a gardener want? Oh yes…fragrance!

The last shrub I’m loving this year is Daphne × transatlantica ‘Summer Ice’. Mind you this plant was only six inches tall when I bought it and it grew to a whopping nine inches over the summer. I don’t care. This Daphne is variegated with a narrow edging of white on the leaves, and sweetly scented flowers all summer. I understand that the plant is considered easier to grow than many Daphnes, and that it will ultimately grow 4 feet tall. I hope this is true because once it gets larger this will be one of those “What is this?” plants in my garden.

All in all, it was a successful summer with many plants knocking themselves out in their new location. I can hardly wait until next year.

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