Every garden grows a few divas, plant world-rocking earth mamas that know how to put on a show. Maybe it’s a pass-around plant that’s gotten out of control running everything else over in colonizing fashion. But it could as well be a highly sought after accession worthy of all the glitz and glam it can garner bloom after bloom. Either way, I’ve got several fab flowering friends that you should hear about.
Listed in no particular order, I must start with the plant that inspired this whole diatribe. I think I’ve crowed about Phlox paniculata ‘Peppermint Twist’ before, but it bears mentioning again. One look and it’ll take your breath away (at least it did mine). Disease-resistant, long-lasting, fragrant, and vigorous, this recent introduction has gotten quite a lot of press recently and should be readily available. Pick it up, even if you’ve been burned by phloxes in the past. But be warned that if you choose to install a small row of these in the front border you’ll need to up your homeowner’s insurance, otherwise you’re going to have an awkward conversation with your insurance agent when that Ford Fusion wrecks in the yard. But I digress…
Planted right next door is Echinacea Pixie Meadowbrite™, the first true-dwarf coneflower at only 18″ tall. It’s compact and has bloomed non-stop now for weeks (with no signs of stopping). The ray florets are richly lacquered in frothy pink and accented by rich raspberry chocolate cones (known botanically as disc florets). Honestly as in love with both of these as I am, they really have no business growing as next-door neighbors. It’s frankly overwhelming. But growing in concert with an early blooming grass like sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) and old-fashioned perennial flax (Linum perenne), it would surely shine.
Moving to the backyard, I can’t help stop for a stare near the smart-looking Lilium michiganense. The Michigan lily is a sorely underused native lily (see this earlier blog post for enlightenment). Lack of humanly praise withstanding, the Michigan lily quite literally glows, almost like those little translucent party lamps from the 70s. The blossoms dangle in trios from tall stems, and stooping for a peak isn’t unwarranted or inappropriate.
Elephantoid in proportion to its garden mates, Petasites x hybridus no doubt makes some of you cringe. I know, I know. It can be a little aggressive in some climates (he laughs mischievously). Here in Zone 5 I don’t seem to have much trouble with it getting out of hand, probably thanks to our harsher winters. It marks the epitome of texture in the backyard, classically contrasting with lanceolate-leaved daylilies and heart-shaped hostas. I love it. Plus the leaves make my fat head look smaller, at least by comparison.
But perhaps the most electrifying diva in the garden this summer is my Dream Catcher™ beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis ‘Maradco’). The foliage drips in fluorescent gold and bronze, flowing as beauty bushes do from many stems that burgeon from the crown. Though only a few years old, this high-impact shrub really brightens up an otherwise uneventful corner of the yard this time of year. I can’t say enough about this plant (and if I could it would make for a really long post). Just go buy it and trust me.