Top 10 plants for 2012

Before Gail and I begin in earnest to plan and order for next year’s gardens I had to spend a little time looking back through the year’s pictures. I always need to jog my memory about what worked and what didn’t and remind myself what plants I fell – or stayed – in love with. The following 10 are a sort of random assortment in order of when I noticed them and had to shoot their portrait. Nearly all of these also held their own through the season, in bloom and out of it.

1. Paeonia x ‘Julia Rose’ was one of our new Itoh or intersectional peonies – crosses between herbaceous and tree peonies. They were all pretty great – with huge dessert-plate flowers and clean, gorgeous, fanned foliage for the duration.

2. Baptisia x variicolor Twilite Prairieblues(tm). This picture doesn’t do it justice. The color is slightly weirder – browner – which I love. The trademark blue pea foliage is as handsome as any false indigo out of bloom and I’m excited to see this 2 year old clump just get bigger and better.

3. Where has Campanula punctata ‘Pink Chimes’ been all my life? It’s an oldie but goodie that returned to Blithewold this year after an absence and I hope we never let go of it again. But disappearance actually seems unlikely since it spreads so beautifully we have already distributed some of its wealth from the Display Garden to the North Garden.

4. Oxalis vulcanicola ‘Duotone’. Be still my heart. True-black splotches on variegated purple hearts make this a Gothic stunner despite the sunny yellow and unbelievably persistent flowers. That clump is huge now and still blooming away in the greenhouse as happily as it would as a houseplant. Must has.

5. I’m a sucker for any flowering tobacco but I think I loved Nicotiana ‘Baby Bella’ the best this year. We grew it from seed; I took that picture at the end of June; and it kept on putting up luminous red trumpets until (a really hard) frost. It’s a short one – only about 2-3′ tall so it can be tucked in front and center.

6. I think Monarda fistulosa ‘Claire Grace’ was on my list last year too but I’m thrilled to report that the clumps increased generously and are just as pretty as ever in bloom, and as seedheads still standing now. Maybe next year we’ll try deadheading them for a prolonged bloom…

7. My love for anise hyssop – in any form – is no secret. But I think ‘Black Adder’ is my all-time favorite because of its endless deep purple-blue spires and butterfly magnetism.

8. Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ was a new one for us this year and one that I expect will be a total keeper. And not just because it keeps throwing up perfect new growth for cuttings here in the greenhouse. More because those fabulous raspberry tubes opened early – in late summer rather than holding off for fall.

Lastly are two plants that I noticed when they bloomed (in early summer) but that waited until fall to knock my socks off.

9. We moved a two or three year old Indigofera kirilowii from the Rose Garden to a more prominent spot in the Display Garden so I got a better look and appreciation for its pinky-purple flowers and upright form. But I really can’t get over its fall blaze. How could I have missed that? Wowsers.

10. My love for sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Little Henry’) has been coming on slowly for awhile – for about as long as it has taken to increase from a couple of spriggy twigs to a thicket (we bought it tiny about 8 years ago). But now I love it madly – as much (or more) for its translucent fall color as for its sweet summer dangles.

Are any of these on your top 10? What else?