Hasn’t this been a wonderful spring? Cool wet days have given us a lush display of bulbs and flowering trees and shrubs! As it grows warmer, the urge to put your hands (mine, anyhow) in the dirt to keep the flowers coming is proving irresistible.
Once again, deer-resistance and native plants are being emphasized at the Garden Club of East Hampton’s annual sale, which will be held tomorrow evening and Saturday morning (from 9 a.m. to noon) at the Mulford Farm, behind Town Pond. As interest in native plants heightens, nursery men and breeders have turned their attention to selecting more and more garden-worthy variants, which are now becoming available to home gardeners.
Phlox paniculata Blue Paradise is one of the most spectacular new perennials I’ve encountered in the last few years. (Yes, unfortunately, deer love garden phlox, too.) It is fragrant, but it’s the color that is a standout: The first time I saw it was in a large garden bed at Battery Park in New York, and from the distance the color reached out and drew me like a magnet. Selected and introduced by Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, Phlox Blue Paradise is destined to become a classic.
There will be at long last a good supply of another native evergreen phlox that is deer-resistant and grows in partial shade, Phlox stolonifera Watnong Purple. This selection, with dark purple flowers, from my garden in New Jersey, always creates a stir when people visit; earlier in May, a large patch flowered at the Mimi Meehan Native Plant Garden behind Clinton Academy. It was put into production by our perennials grower, and finally enough plants are available for sale.
The garden world is excited about a new group of tickseed (coreopsis) hybrids developed by the dean of epimediums, Darrell Probst. If you’ve ever experienced the tedium of deadheading coreopsis, you’ll understand what a relief it will be to have one that is self-cleaning! These new hybrids, derived from three East Coast species that Probst collected, will flower from midsummer until frost and have mildew-resistant foliage. We’ve selected Coreopsis Full Moon for the plant sale. It has large flowers in a soft canary-yellow and will grow 18 to 24 inches high and wide. I hope to put some in the Native Plant Garden, so visit over the summer to see how it does.
Agastache should become the workhorse of the sunny summer flower garden. With licorice-scented foliage that is unpalatable to deer, its smoky-violet, upright plumes flower from midsummer to frost and attract hummingbirds and butterflies. We’ll have two varieties of this unfamiliar native plant: Purple Haze, which has purple flowers, and Spicy, with lighter violet-blue blooms.
Last year, the native wisteria vines Amethyst Falls were sold out as soon as the first browsers arrived at the sale. We’ll have more this weekend, and in addition, a new white from Kentucky, Wisteria macrostachya Clara Mack. It sounds fantastic, with fragrant white flowers up to 18 inches long. Native honeysuckle vines also deserve to be better known and more frequently grown. I’ve admired a showy one with large clusters of bright red blossoms, Lonicera sempervirens Major Wheeler. It and a yellow, John Clayton, bloom from May through September and the foliage is mildew resistant.
Last year I put the prostrate hardy verbena V. canadensis Pink Pepper in the Native Plant Garden. Not only did it come through the winter in fine condition, it was already in flower in early May! It makes a dense groundcover and if you are growing the two-toned pink clematis, Duchess of Albany, they are perfect companions.
The work with disease-resistant, repeat-flowering roses at the New York Botanical Garden has caught my interest. Thanks to the curator, who supplied me with a list of his top-performing varieties during 2010, we’ve selected a small grouping that we imported from Canada and will be available at the plant sale.
Lions Fairy Tale has fragrant, fullflowers in soft ivory. It is a floribunda with large clusters of blooms that will become a three to four-foot bush. Red Riding Hood needs no description, except to say its large quartered blossoms look like antique roses, it is fragrant, and it will grow to three to four feet. There will be a few climbers in lavender-pink, soft yellow, and salmon-pink, as well as a lavender hybrid tea and a low-growing bright-yellow floribunda that would be perfect for containers or the front of the border.
These roses are not yet available commercially in the United States, and we are excited to see how they will perform on the East End. They’ve done well at the New York Botanical Garden; our bushes are doing well here, and we expect them to herald a new era of garden roses.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Come on over to Mulford Farm, kick some pots, and satisfy that urge to get your hands dirty!