Man-Made, Bigeneric Plants

Article written for

Gardening in the “Garden State” can be trying at times. When you think about it, we can have a 100-degree fluctuation in temperature in the course of a year. As I write this today, New Jersey is expecting to top out near 100 degrees Fahrenheit and our winters; well you know what we all just endured. This kind of stress can certainly separate the men from the boys so to speak. As a garden center owner, teacher and salesperson I constantly preach to “garden” with plants that have proven themselves in the landscape. That is to say the plants that answer the customer’s question of “is it hardy”? Hardy refers to the temperature that a particular plant can endure. However, to many customers, it simply means “is it difficult to grow”? One particular group of plants that are fun to use in the landscape and are “tough as nails” are Heucherella.

Indirectly, we have Johann Heinrich von Heucher (1677-1746), an 18th century German physician to thank for this group of plants. Heuchera, a common perennial found at most independent garden centers, was named after von Heucher and was crossed with Tiarella to create Heucherella. A “horticulturally-derived group of bigeneric hybrids between Heuchera, coralbells, and Tiarella, foamflower, Heucherella combines the characters of both parental types”. Don’t get me wrong, Heucherella can be a tricky plant in heavy clay soil and strong sun, however sighted properly in part shade with well drained soil, this plant performs admirably and has great color and texture. In fact, it performs even better as a container plant and really lifts a landscape! Heucherella have a long bloom time in mid spring. Emile Lemoine bred the first Heucherella in France in 1912 when he crossed Heuchera ‘Brizoides’ with Tiarella cordifolia.

Heucherella’s can have some amazing foliage and, in fact, it is this characteristic that has me using them frequently in planters within our residential landscape. These “Foamy Bells”, as they are commonly called, fill our planters with some bold colors and textures. Also useful as a groundcover underneath Dogwood, Serviceberry and Stewartia, Heucherella are also paired nicely with the likes of Bleeding Heart, Jacob’s Ladder, Solomon’s Seal and ferns.

Specifically, there are a number of varieties to be on the look out for. ‘Alabama Sunrise’ is more heat tolerant than most. This Heucherella has brilliantly colored leaves, gold with red veining in the spring. Their color stays for the better part of summer and the autumn brings on more green with pronounced red veins. Finally, the later part of autumn brings warm shades of orange and pinks. ‘Stoplight’ has sunny yellow leaves with dark red blotches and leave most stopped in their tracks when they first see it. White flowers grow in late spring; Janet Egger of Terra Nova Nurseries bred this one. Finally, the best name for a summer time plant, ‘Sweet Tea’. This colorful Heucherella has big, maple-shaped leaves that are cinnamon colored in the spring and fall. With high heat and humidity tolerance, this garden gem will reach about 20 inches tall and 28 inches wide. Again, we have Janet Egger of Terra Nova to thank for this botanical wonder.

There are simply too many varieties of Heucherella to mention and most I am quite fond of. Their endless colors of foliage alone are enough to keep your garden interesting. The fact that they flower pales in comparison to the complexities of their summer time foliage color. I have been a fan of these for quite some time and our garden simply “Pops” with their inclusion.