Hot Plants for Spring 2011

With Witchhazels in bloom and daffodil buds emerging, my spring fever is nearing its peak.  I wanted to dedicate a few blogs to plants that I think will be hot this spring.  I’ve spent time going through stacks of 2011 catalogues, going to nursery trade shows, and talking to designers and breeders, so I have narrowed down my finalists.  Today’s pick for hot plants 2011:
The Genius Geum Genus
Geum 'Totally Tangerine' bred by Tim Crowther UK.  Image from Bluestone Perennials.
Try and say that three times quickly.  It’s clear that this once overlooked genus is hotter than ever this spring.  It’s easy to see why these plants have been ignored.  They tend to take a year or two to get established, can sometimes look scraggly, and don’t really stand out in a pot.  But what makes Geums uninspiring the first year turn into assets over the long haul.  By the second year, Geums really make a show and prove themselves to be long blooming additions to any border.  Plus, they come in almost every color imaginable.
What will make Geums particularly hot this year are a slate of wonderful new cultivars.  Consider, for example, Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ (Tim’s Tangerine PPAF).  This plant won ‘Plant of the Year’ at the Chelsea Flower Show, among a particularly crowded field of good plants.  This plant explodes with coral-colored Anemone-like blooms in early summer and continues blooming through mid summer.  This cultivar is particularly robust and taller than the species, transforming a supporting plant into a leading role in your garden. 
Also look out for a series of new cultivars developed by Walter’s Gardens in Michigan.  Geum ‘Mai Thai’ and Geum ‘Alabama Slammer’ are a couple of their promising introductions.  You can purchase them online from Bluestone Perennials.
Geum triflorum, image from Prairie Moon Nursery
Don’t care about overly bred cultivars and are looking for something a bit more native?  Try Geum triflorum, a delightful and whimsical Midwest native.  Prairie Smoke is a low growing forb that sports gorgeous hot pink flowers in spring that explode into smoky, pinky, feathery seedheads in midsummer. What a knockout.   One of the most photogenic plants I’ve ever seen, proving once again, that natives can compete with even the most colorful exotic.  This plant is relatively easy to grow and combines nicely with other low prairie grasses like Bouteloua gracilis or Schizachyrium scoparium.  Prairie Moon Nursery sells seeds of this wonderful plant.
Geum triflorum in seed.  Image from Prairie Moon Nursery.

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