Trying out the occasional new plant in the garden is a low risk endeavor; using a new plant in a mass of 1,000 or more for a client, the stakes are higher. That’s why I lean heavily on several tried and true plants that always perform, even when the gardener may not. New perennial cultivars come out almost daily. The explosion of Echinacea cultivars in the last two years is an example of the future of plant breeding: quantity over quality. Knowing the right cultivar matters, as plants vary wildly from one another. Here is a list of a few of my favorite perennial cultivars in the last few years.
Purple Lance Astilbe, Astilbe chinensis var. taquetti (also ‘Purpurlanze’ and ‘Purpurkerze’)
Autumn Bride Coral Bells, Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’
Wlassov’s Cranebill, Geranium wlassovianum
Horatio Goatsbeard, Aruncus x ‘Horatio’
Serenade Japanese Windflower, Anemone x hybrida ‘Serenade’
trials at Chicago Botanic Garden show this plant to bloom an average of 64 days. Light pink blooms from September through early November. Strong stalks are less susceptible to flopping.