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Try a few of these plants in your perennial areas to extend the colour


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Opinion: Many other perennials have longer flowering times, but these strains are time-honored icons.

Author of the article:

Brian Minter

Release date:

January 22, 2021 • • January 22, 2021 • • Read for 4 minutes • • Join the conversation Armeria Dreameria. Armeria Dreameria. Photo by Ball Horticultural Company /.PNG

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When people relatively new to the world of gardening ask for help with their perennial selection, I always encourage them to try not only tough, resilient varieties, but those with a long flowering time as well.

I then introduce them to the rudbeckia family, especially R. ‘Goldsturm’, the quality standard by which all other rudbeckia are measured. If space is an issue, I suggest the more compact R. ‘Little Goldstar’ which produces masses of tiny gold flowers centered with black seed cones. It blooms from late June to September.

Next, I take them to the perennial geranium department, where the main character is the beautiful G. ‘Rozanne’. This somewhat common variety pumps out its gorgeous blue color from early July through October.

My next stop is the Coreopsis display on which the famous C. ‘Zagreb’ hangs out. It is one of the oldest and most reliable artists. We enjoyed the compact, prickly foliage and golden flowers in our garden from June to October.


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Then it goes to the yarrow, in which the newer ‘Vintage’ series is located. These compact, basal-branched plants come in four colors (red, pink, purple and white) and will bloom again throughout the summer.

Many other perennials have longer flowering times, but for me these varieties are proven symbols that provide light colors all summer and into autumn. However, this year I may add a few new members to my long bloomer list.

While visiting gardens, garden centers and growers frequently in Europe, I discovered a few jewels – one of which was the Whiteman Company in the Netherlands, which changed its name to Darwin Perennials. As leaders in the introduction of new perennials, their varieties have brought a lot of depth to this category of plants. Every year they came across real gems, many of which are favorites to this day.

To my surprise, Whiteman was later bought by the Ball Horticultural Company, one of the world’s largest horticultural companies, and continues to function as Darwin Perennials. We have a longstanding relationship with Ball and a deep appreciation for the way they care for and work with breeders around the world. Their innovative ideas, the exchange of information and the encouragement to mechanize and modernize their farms have helped many producers to be far more successful. They have also made thousands of new plants available to consumers.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Karl Batschke, President of Darwin Perennials. I reached him in Ball’s headquarters in Chicago. Ironically, he was also a former long-time Whiteman customer of his family business in Michigan. Knowing the history of the Whiteman Company and its goal of sourcing some of the best new perennials in the world, he said that goal continues, but with one significant difference. Darwin’s mission is to encourage its breeders to develop new perennials that have better pest and disease tolerance, longer plant life, and far longer flowering times.


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Lavender spring Lavender spring Photo by Ball Horticultural Company /.PNG

As thousands of conventionally grown seedlings are examined, Darwin asks her breeders to look for unique traits, select them from hundreds, and eventually narrow them down to the few most promising plants. Batschke mentioned that it is important to determine the correct genetics to ensure that these new perennials, especially the longer flowering ones, improve year after year and provide color over a longer period of time.

According to Batschke, three main topics are important when developing new perennials:

• The ultimate goal is to ensure that consumers have remarkable, long-lived new plants.

• The new plants must meet the parameters that growers need to produce high quality products.

• There must be a constant and reliable supply of these new systems to meet the growing global demand.

I appreciate this approach because it ensures that these new perennials have been checked out before arriving at gardening stores. What we’re really talking about here is developing perennials that act like yearbooks for longer flowering times, with the added bonus of coming back for a repeat performance each year. This is a big step forward in the perennial world. We need to remember, however, that plants need to establish themselves in the first year and may not live up to expectations until they have really settled in and matured.

What are these exciting new strains? Will they be available in BC this year? I have compiled the following list from Batschke and received his approval and assurance that enough of these varieties will be in the hands of the growers this spring to ensure good availability. Since growers receive most of these new plants in small “plugs”, it will be late June or July before they are large enough to sell.


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Achillea 'Milly Rock Red'. Achillea ‘Milly Rock Red’. Photo by Ball Horticultural Company /.PNG

Here is the exciting lineup of some of the plants we can expect this year:

• •Achillea ‘Milly Rock’ series: Zone 5a, grows 10-12 inches, flowers April through September.

• •Armeria ‘Dreameria’ series: 5a, 10-12 inches, March-October.

• Coreopsis ‘Uptick’ series: 5, 12-14 inches, March-November.

• Lavender ‘Primavera’: 7a, 16-18 inches, spring / winter.

• Leukanthemum ‘Whitecap’: 5a, 14-16 inches, March-October.

• Nepeta ‘Whispurr Blue’: 4a, 24 inches, April-September

• Penstemon ‘Cherry Sparks’: 5a, 18-20 inches, May-August

• Phlox ‘Ka-Pow’ 5 colors: 4b, 18-20 inches, June-August

• Salvia ‘Mirage’ series 9 colors: 7, 12-14 inches, March-September

• Veronica longifolia ‘Forever Blue’: 4b, 16-18 inches, June-October.

The ultimate test for any of these plants is their performance in our gardens. Try a few in your perennial areas to expand the color.

A big thank you to Darwin Perennials and the Ball Horticultural Company for their innovation and dedication to growing new plants. Your efforts make a remarkable contribution to the world of gardening.

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