When we relocated Heronswood Nursery to Pennsylvania last spring, we not only expanded the research and display gardens and greenhouses, but also initiated an evaluation of our customer offering. Our goals are to fulfill the desires of a sophisticated nationwide gardening market, and to continue to serve our customers back in the Seattle area. We can do this much better on our 60 acres at Fordhook, located close to the mainstream public and in a solid zone 6, as well as at our 50 acre test gardens in the Appalachian Ridge at the border of zones 5 and 6, and also at our 30 acre zone 7 garden in southern Delaware, than on 15 acres in western Washington in a wet, warm zone 8. Our full-sun test gardens here—ideal for selecting summer-blooming perennials, meadow plants and grasses—can accommodate a wider range of such taxa than our former headquarters.The U.S. has mainly a continental climate given to extremes of sun and clouds, heat and cold, droughts and floods. On either side the vast oceans buffet the coasts with huge storms and generate enormous continental weather systems, especially from the Pacific. The summertime is dazzlingly bright and warm, even at higher elevations, and often scorchingly hot at sea level.
In the rain forests of western Washington state, the beautiful summers are primarily cool and overcast. The Maine coastline is similar in the summer but has a very cold and long winter. The only climate I have found to be comparable to western Washington is in parts of Scandinavia along the coastlines (hence the many Norwegian Americans on the Kitsap Peninsula), and similar areas of the UK—mild summers and dark, wet winters.
This brings us to the subject of our future colors, beginning in the 2008 gardening season. This summer we shall test many bright and strong perennials at our experimental gardens at Fordhook. To be sure, we won’t overlook the dreamy, pale, delicate shades, but we’ll add bold colors selected for the intense sunlight and heat of eastern, mid-western and southern U.S. summer gardens.
Plant strong colors in sunny outdoor gardens. A little goes a long way. Also, plant moderately strong colors, such as blue petunias or scarlet monardas, in larger masses and their softer and dispersed effects won’t overpower your site. But in shade gardens, plant all the pale lavenders, creams and pinks you want, and they will enhance the limited light and brighten your woodland. A spot of red, orange, pink or yellow impatiens or coleus will stand out in the shadows. Be careful—too much will distract from the lovely effects of the dominant pale colors.
Also, some plants really should be bright and strong. Recently, breeders have shown a tendency to soften the colors of full sun plants and created pale monardas, agastaches and yellow or creamy buddleias. The results are unsatisfying. They may be rare and unusual. However, they’re not effective for an enjoyable full sun garden.
Here’s a sample of our current boldly colored, full sun rarities.
Kniphofia caulescens ‘Helen Dillon’
Clematis x triternata ‘Rubromarginata’
Papaver ‘Patty’s Plum’
Crocosmia masoniorum ‘Blaze’
Rosa ‘Eddie’s Jewel’
Look for more on the internet and watch for new, bold colors from Heronswood in the future.