“Mainstream plants”

Echinacea purpurea 'Green Eyes'I’ve heard Dr. Allan Armitage speak a couple of times now (both times at New England Grows) and he could probably say the same thing over and over again (he may well have) and I’d probably hear something completely different and be endlessly entertained each time.  His topic this year was “New and Useful Perennials for the Northeast”.  He endeavored to convince his audience of green industry professionals to make life a little easier for customers and clients when it comes to choosing the best plants for their garden.  He used his daughter Heather as an example of someone who not only isn’t interested in learning 1000 Latin names (we’ve probably all read his post about using common names on Garden Rant) but also doesn’t want to have to choose from 65 coneflowers when she goes to her local nursery.  –That’s how many images of echinaceas Dr. Armitage has available so far on his images database website.  Heather just wants to know which one is “the best” and she’ll happily buy it for her garden.

I happen to think he’s absolutely right.  Pretty much.  Mostly.   I know what I want (some of the time) and will still leave a nursery empty handed if I’ve been overwhelmed by choices.  Here at Blithewold we’ve been trying to make those decisions easier by trying as much as we can so that we’ll know, and you’ll know when you visit, what works and what doesn’t in this area.  The year I started working here was a heuchera year.  Gail and my predecessor Sheila had planted a dozen – at least – of them in trial.  And unfortunately over the next couple-three years we didn’t find a keeper among them so we let them go as we changed the gardens.  Five years later, there are a few (hundred?) more choices available.  The breeders will never stop breeding – who’d want them to stop? And we might be ready to give heucheras another go.

Phlox paniculata 'Natural Feelings'Rosa 'Morning Has Broken'The flip side is when we find something that works, something that we love, something that we praise to the skies and then discover that no one is actually selling it.  We love Phlox paniculata ‘Natural Feelings’ because it’s mildew free, it blooms for a month and it’s a perfect height and an interesting color.  I guess we were the only ones who felt that way about it or it would be lined up with ‘David’ and ‘Peppermint Twist’ and 10 others at every garden center.  Same thing with Rosa ‘Morning Has Broken’.  If only there were a way to convince the growers and nurseries to sell exactly what we think is the very best…

What’s your opinion?  When you go to a nursery do you want to see an acre of roses or do you want to choose from the 12 or so that have been determined to be the best for your region?