Hartley Magazine

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Five for Fabulous – 2010 Plant Stars

Just imagine, box loads of free plants from major growers arriving on your doorstep each spring. Oh boy. That’s my favorite garden writer’s perk—the chance to trial new plants a year or two before they hit the market. However, when I first started writing about gardens, I was uncomfortable receiving what some term “swag” from the plant companies. After all, journalism ethics forbid you to take even a cup of coffee from your sources.

But I soon saw—or rationalized—that accepting these plants is like reading a book for review.
And now the reviews are in! Here are five top plants that I have trialed in my Pacific Northwest Zone 7 garden—although my best picks will thrive in lower zones or are annuals. These 2010 red-carpet winners are coming soon to a garden center near you.

Countdown to the Top

5. Weigela florida Eyecatcher™ – With gold and green variegated foliage and deep maroon-red flowers, this bright easy-care shrub shines among my smaller roses. – Partial sun, 3 x 3,' Zone 4-8

4. Dianthus Scent First™ Series, Candy Floss (Whetman® Pink, D. 'Devon flavia') – Double cotton-candy pink flowers grace gray-green foliage, and the scent is classic cottage garden carnation spice. The vigor of this perennial makes it a real returning favorite. – Full sun, 5 "x 1,' Zone 5

3. Heuchera 'Georgia Peach' – Terra Nova introduced this colorful coral bells several years ago, but it took the intervening time to demonstrate its beautiful survivability in my garden where it glows peachy orange under gray Oregon skies. Friends in the South tell me humid summer heat won’t cause a melt-down. – Full sun to partial shade, 1' x 2,' Zone 4-8

2. Coreopsis Big Bang™ Series, 'Red Shift' – I grew this in a foot-wide container last summer, where the punchy yellow and red flowers received plenty of visitor comments. Now it’s back, with a vigorous rosette of foliage, ready to rise again. The "shift" in its name? The flowers change color in response the temperature. – Full sun, 2'x 2,' Zone 5.

1. And the winner is… Lobularia Snow Princess™ (L.'Inlbusnopr') – It's an alyssum on steroids – bigger, tougher foliage and fuller self-cleaning flowers (I never had to shear it back) with even more of that beloved honey scent. I planted it in foot-wide pots where it cascaded over the sides, eventually covering the container. Grab it wherever you see it. Yes, it'll cost more, but this one is worth it. – Full sun, 8"x 60," Zone 9-10