What’s New?

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer

It is always an adventure reading the seed catalogs, gardening magazines and touring the local greenhouses for new plants. Many catalogs have their new entries prominently displayed toward the front of the catalog. Magazines have new items featured in their winter columns.

Seeing pictures, or reading about the new plants does not compare to actually going to the greenhouses to see what is available. Two new items displayed at a greenhouse where Beth and I went for the first time on May 8 caught our eye.

Beth does not like peonies. In our small area, peonies are not a priority for me. Many of the neighbors have them, and if I have a hankering to smell their flowers, I can walk along a sidewalk near 73rd and Willshire to have my fill. I do have a fern leaf “Mother’s Day Peony” given to us by a friend. It has a favored place in the north part of the old perennial bed. Its flower petals are silky smooth, and its ferny foliage unique. Although everything else was exceedingly early, ours bloomed fairly close to its scheduled time, near Mother’s Day in mid-May.

Traditional peonies come in red, pink, white, or a combination of these colors. They also come in single or double forms. When I lived on Seneca, I had a little of all of these varieties.

Imagine Beth’s surprise when she saw a bright, sun-yellow peony blooming at this greenhouse. Its flower form, fragrance and leaf form were traditional in nature. I figured it was a pastel yellow, but Beth assured me it was bright, more like a yellow daffodil. The plant was healthy; the price was healthy as well. Later Beth saw more of these at another location, at even a higher price.

Even though our gardening budgets were stretched, we purchased this new cultivar. I do not know its cultivar name. A lilac bush had died in the perennial bed, and I was looking for a shrub called “Rose tree of China” to replace it; my attempts were unsuccessful. The peony was planted out immediately upon its arrival at the house. It has not rained since then, but it has received two 2-gallon watering cans of water from me, and will continued to be babied throughout this year. 

When I planted the peony, all the roots and soil tumbled out of the pot in a loose pile. It was in a large container, so my fear is that I planted it too deep; this may mean no blooms in subsequent years. Over-watering is not a concern of mine at this time.

And only a few feet from the yellow peony was a pastel pink iris, which was unique to Beth. Its cultivar name is “magic returns” and we’ve since seen it in an iris lover’s catalog that arrived a few days after we purchased the plant. The iris had two long, tall stems that required immediate staking. I can imagine colors, but there was no imagining its magnificent flower form, and its strong iris fragrance. Form and fragrance for me, visual beauty for Beth–definitely a winner! Iris are planted shallow, as their rhizomes are prone to over-watering and rot. A crabapple tree that was dying was removed last fall, leaving a sunny spot in the back; tailor-made for this sun-loving beauty. While I planted (with the iris leaning against a fence for support) Beth got a wooden trellis and string. The trellis was “planted” along with the iris, and when I stood up, Beth tied the flower stalks to the trellis before they could fall over. These flowers will die soon, but I’ll leave the stalks as markers for next year. If the old flowers form seeds, I’ll cut them off, so the energy goes into the leaves and rhizomes. 

One of the Shasta daisies I purchased is new to me, but not to the trade. Its cultivar name is “banana cream”. Beth tells me the daisies open light yellow, but will fade to white. Their large flowers are what attracted me to this cultivar. I checked on it yesterday (with watering can in hand) and it continues to do well.

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