Fornari’s Favorites 2009

It’s tough to pick my favorites this year… so many things have done so well. I’m like the “very old man” in Wanda Gag’s book, Millions of Cats. This old man goes out to find the perfect cat for his wife, and ends up in a place where there are “hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats.” He decides to only take the prettiest, and “Before he knew it, he’d chosen them all.”

Me too. If I get started on picking the prettiest and the best, before you know it, I’ll have chosen every single plant in my garden.

So I’ve chosen just a few, and decided that this year I’d focus on one perennial, and why it’s been a fantastic addition to the garden from April through September.

compare_allysum ‘Snow Princess’, at the top of this photo, is think and vigorous, even in September when the seeded alyssum is thin and lanky.
pw_allysum Be sure that you plant ‘Snow Princess’ alyssum in a place where it has room to spread, or in a container with equally vigorous plants. ‘Snow Princess’ is no shrinking violet!
spv_container Illusion ‘Midnight Lace’ won’t overwhelm a pot or window box like other sweet potato vines will.
First, let me talk annuals. I’ve loved several this summer, but I am especially enthusiastic about the following four.

Alyssum ‘Snow Princess’ (Lobularia) If you think that all alyssum are alike, think again. I foolishly planted three of these Proven Winner alyssums in the back of the garden, thinking, “It’s an alyssum, how great can it be?”

It is a great plant and then some. ‘Snow Princess’ is vigorous but compact. Take a look at the photos I took that show the Proven Winner’s plant behind some alyssum I grew from seed. The ‘Snow Princess’ is still fresh, green and flower-filled in September, while the seed grown plant is stemmy and sprawling. No contest.

spv_pleasentview Although the Illusion Ipomoeas won’t take over a container, it is thick and full enough to make a great ground cover or bedding plant. This planting was at Pleasant View Nurseries in New Hampshire.
impatiens_pf I love all of the Fusion series of impatiens, but over all the others, ‘Peach Frost’ won my heart this year. A neat round mound of growth, variegated foliage and peach flowers with a coral throat. Yummy.
purple_flash I’ve always said that you can never go wrong with purple and see? I was right.
The other plant I’ve loved from Proven Winners is the Illusion ‘Midnight Lace’ sweet potato vine. The cut-leaf foliage is a bit lighter, yes, more lacy, than ‘Blackie’ and ‘Marguerite’, the gold-standard plants in this genus so far. I found that ‘Midnight Lace’ isn’t quite as vigorous, and thank goodness, because it doesn’t overwhelm a container like the originals do. And yet, as the photo taken at Pleasantview Nursery shows, this sweet potato vine makes a great annual ground cover.

I am also completely smitten by the Fusion ‘Peach Frost’ impatiens from the Simply Beautiful line from Ball Horticulture. This is the perfect plant to lighten up shady beds, because the foliage is variegated and the peach flowers beautiful. I used ‘Peach Frost’ around dormant bleeding hearts and I was happy from July 4th through September.

Another Simply Beautiful plant that captured my heart is the ‘Purple Flash’ ornamental pepper in this line. A group of Master Gardeners from Michigan recently visited my gardens, and this pepper was the plant they asked about most. It grew 15” in my garden, and as wide as it was tall. The dark foliage alone is an asset in gardens, and add to that the lavender flowers and the “purple flash” of light violet foliage and the round, black peppers, and you’ve got a winning plant.

heuchera_pgearlymay Early in the springtime, the foliage of ‘Pinot Gris’ is brighter and more colorful than most flowers.
heuchera_pg In mid-May ‘Pinot Gris’ has foliage that is still coral and sunshine.
heuchera_pgjune As the pale pink flowers emerge the combination of the lacy blooms and the round, colorful foliage is the perfect companion for Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’
My final favorite for 2009 is a perennial. Heuchera ‘Pinot Gris’ caught my eye last year in early May because the foliage had a coral tint. At the time I was planting a coral/blue/yellow/white themed garden, and this seemed a great addition because the foliage kept it’s color all summer.

This year, it’s second season in the entry garden, this Heuchera has really strutted its stuff. I’ve included several photos here to show you how this plant changes over the season and yet continues to bloom for such a long time.

Since it was so difficult to zero in on my favorites this year, I think I just might have to make this a biannual or quarterly feature here. Before I knew it, I’d chosen them all.

heuchera_pgaug In mid-summer, ‘Pinot Gris’ starts losing the coral colors in the leaves, and becomes a combination of silver and golden tan.
heuchera_pgsept This photograph was taken on September 16th, and you can see that ‘Pinot Gris’ is continuing to make new, pale pink flowers even late in the season.
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