48 Days & Counting

     Picking up on where I left off last month, the spring equinox is now 48 days and counting from the time this publication “hits the shelves”. And that means more plants to get excited about! February 2020 has 29 days, a leap year day or “intercalary day”, a day added to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical year. So let’s “leap” right into some new plants and start planning your gardens.

     First Editions® has a remarkable little willow to get excited about. Iceberg Alley™ Sageleaf Willow, Salix candida ‘Jefberg’, is a native plant discovered by the Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador Botanical Garden. Silver, powdery foliage helps make up this neat, little willow, only growing 3-6 feet. Always driven more by texture and contrast than flowers, Iceberg Alley™ certainly doesn’t disappoint. That being said, this Sageleaf Willow blooms in the spring, complete with silver catkins and red stamens. A problem solver for wet soil types, this silver mound appreciates full sun and tolerates heavy pruning. Consider cutting the stems late winter or early spring for its decorative catkins (flowering spikes of trees such as willow and poplars).

     Indian Pink, Spigelia marilandica ‘Little Redhead’, is an underused perennial despite its versatility. Known for its adaptability in either sun or shade, Spigelia frequently appears in the wild in woodland areas and along streambanks. Popular among wildflower enthusiasts and commonly found throughout the Eastern United States, there is now a superior selection of the species. ‘Little Redhead’, vegetatively propagated for uniformity, has dark red tubular flowers with yellow interiors, suspended above clumps of dark green, wedge-shaped leaves. Hardy in zones 5B-9 and enjoying full sun to part shade, this tidy plant grows about 2 feet tall and wide. A plant, well situated, for patio containers, cottage gardens, woodland shade and for attracting hummingbirds, Spigelia m. ‘Little Redhead’ is long blooming from late spring through midsummer.

      Einstein Summersweet, Clethra alnifolia Einstein™ (‘Novacleein’) PP27,590, is a plant for everyone, not just geniuses. Johannes Kepler, Rosalind Franklin, Bernhard Riemann, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Young, Marie Curie and particularly Albert Einstein perchance would have appreciated this plants attributes? Nearly foot-long strands of densely packed fragrant flowers twist in all directions, mimicking “Einstein’s unique look” or a Medusa hairstyle. The flower racemes are nearly twice as long as the species and more prolific blooming. Another native, this cultivar offers white summer blooms, is a wonderful pollinator attraction and should prove itself time and again in partial sun. Clethra alnifolia types seem to thrive just about anywhere. Sun, shade, pest free, fragrant, wet site tolerant, appreciable fall color, this plant offers so much, yet it is seldom asked for at our garden center. Perhaps Einstein™ (‘Novacleein’) will change all that with its “wild and crazy” flowers?

     Finally, one of the cutest names in recent memory is a Winterberry type, ‘Berry Poppins®’. Ilex verticillata ‘Berry Poppins®’ is a dwarf variety that can be used just about anywhere you want dynamic winter interest. A deciduous holly, this is surely forgotten when its heavy berry display gets going. Requiring a male pollinator, ‘Berry Poppins®’ is another outstanding native plant that thrives in wet areas. Growing only 3-4 feet tall and wide and “hardy” in zone 3, this is one tough plant. Imagine taking cuttings of red fruit in the early winter, and adding these sprigs to your holiday wreath… simple elegance. One male plant should pollinate up to 5 female plants within 50 feet, and for such a job perhaps we should call upon ‘Mr. Poppins®’ for that? Important to note, very little pruning is required to maintain the form of both Mr. & Mrs. Poppins. In fact, it is discouraged to do regular pruning, other than your sprigs for holiday decorating, as it will impact the number of flowers and fruit that is set. Last, but not least, a friendly reminder that the Humane Society of America lists holly berries as toxic to pets, generally identifying them as having the capability for producing a toxic reaction. So keep your decorated wreaths out of reach from your 4 legged friends.

     Native plants offer beauty, healthy spaces for you and your family, help the climate, conserve water and provide vital habits for wildlife. This month, it seems, I am all about native plants. And while I do love native plants, the truth is, I love most plants. The world has so many exciting plants, many that will live quite well in New jersey. Often I make comparisons between plants and food. For me, having a garden solely devoted to native plants would be like eating hotdogs, cheeseburgers and macaroni and cheese every day. While I love all those foods, I also like Burrata, Chicken Tikka Masala with Naan and Sushi & Sashimi. After all, isn’t ‘Variety the Spice of Life?’