Friday, December 24, 2010

December's Mystery Plant

Who am I?

  Hopefully someday I have prizes for the winners, but until then you just get to show off your superior plant geek knowledge!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Green Heuchera

Heuchera 'Sashay'
Who wants a green Heuchera?  Well, I do for one.  While Heucheras are great for adding color to gardens, they also add foliage texture and contrast.  They also make great filler around accent plants where you might be looking for green space so you don't detract from a specimen plant.  Or in some cases, they might be the specimen plant, or they might echo color of the specimen plant. 

H. 'Bressingham Hybrids'

Heuchera 'Bressingham Hybrids' is a seed strain from the 'Brizoides' group with lots of variability.  In theory.  Usually the ones I see are green with pink or red flowers.  Mine is green with bright pink flowers, and identical to all of its siblings in the group I bought it from.  It's been a great performer, maxing out at 10" tall x 30" wide. 

H. villosa 'Autumn Bride' is a great variety for foliage texture.  It has huge fuzzy light green leaves, and is a fairly large plant.  Mine hit 18" tall x 30" wide, white flowers were easily to 24" but I usually break them off.  They're a little unruly for me.  This one has also self seeded for me in the past, but isn't a pest. 

Heuchera 'Sashay'

H. 'Sashay' is a great variety for texture.  It's a dense mound of ruffled foliage that stays fairly compact.  Mine is about 8" tall x 10" wide right now.  I expect eventually it will be 10" x 15".  Foliage is green on the top and burgundy beneath.  The undersides show at the margins where the leaf curls up.  This one is pretty distinct.  H. villosa and H. micrantha are in the background.

H. 'Malachite' is a new variety for 2011 that has a nice mid-green color and ruffled foliage.  I saw this at a trade show this summer, and I think it's quite nice.  Lots of potential for use as a container plant!

H. 'Apple Crisp' is another new one that's hitting the scene in 2011.  This one is even more dissected and ruffled than 'Sashay' or 'Malachite'.  This one is a nice grass-green with silver overlay.  Not sure of the background of this one, I would guess H. micrantha and H. americana.

Heuchera 'Green Spice'
H. 'Mint Frost' is a nice minty green variety with silver overlay.  This one picks up nice plum tones for the winter as well.  White flowers on 15" stalks.  This one has been a little slow growing, but is worth the wait for its nice foliage color.  H. americana is in the background.

H. 'Green Spice' is one of my favorites.  This fantastic beauty has green leaves with a silver overlay and red veins.  Great fall and winter color as well, generally red to burgundy for me, but may have orange as well.  Dense mound to 10" x 18" over time.  White flowers.  This one is a selection of H. americana.
Another selection of H. americana, 'Marvelous Marble' is a seed strain that is similar to 'Green Spice' but has far more red and less silver. 
This is a new one for 2011.

Heuchera 'Green Spice'
There are a number of other fantastic selections with green foliage, many with beautiful flowers: 'Dale's Strain', 'Paris', 'Chatterbox', 'Strawberry Candy', 'Lipstick', 'Mint Julep', 'Paris', 'Peppermint Spice' and more.  Many of these can't be beat for flower effect. 

Next time you see some green Heuchera for sale, take a closer look.  I'm sure there's a spot in the garden for at least one of these!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Growing Heuchera

I've been putting off talking about Heuchera for a quite awhile now.  There is a huge number of fantastic cultivars, it's been hard deciding where to start.  I'm going to leave out a lot of the older varieties, as there's already a great book out by Dan Heims and Graham Ware that covers them.  I'm told the book by Charles and Martha Oliver is also good, but I have yet to read it.  This post is going to be on just general culture, I will post about various color groups later.

Heucheras come in a various shades of green, silver, burgundy, purple, orange, yellow, and nearly any combination of these colors.  Nearly everyone (including me) mispronounces Heuchera.  Proper pronunciation is HOY-ker-uh.  I've been pronouncing it WHO-ker-uh for 15 years, and it's hard to change.

The common name coral bells comes from the pink to red flowers of H. sanguinea.  Nearly every other species goes by the name alumroot.  The genus is exclusively American in origin, with around 37 species and naturally occuring hybrids in N. America and another 4 found exclusively in Mexico.  Heuchera breeders have mostly concentrated on H. micrantha, H. americana, H. sanguinea, H. cylindrica, H. pubescens, and H. villosa. 

Heuchera species fall into two basic categories.  The western species (micrantha, sanguinea, & cylindrica) tend to be crevice dwellers, suitable for the rock garden and well drained soils.  They tend to be heat tolerant and are more sun tolerant.  The eastern species (villosa, pubescens & americana) tend to be woodland dwellers suitable for shade gardens.  They want soils that are consistently moist but well drained with adequate organic matter.  Each species will impart certain characteristics.  Knowing which species are used in a variety's background will help you know it's tolerances. 

H. americana is a hardy woodland species.  It likes a humus rich soil and some afternoon shade.  It is however heat and cold tolerant.  Zones 4-9
H. villosa is another woodland species, it also likes a rich soil.  It is very heat and humidity tolerant.  Zones 3-8.
H. pubescens is a woodland variety, but it's found on rock ledges and shale barrens so good drainage is important.  It's similar to H. americana but smaller and with nice flowers that are often tinged with pink.  It tends to be a robust and sun tolerant species.  Highly used by Charles Oliver in breeding.
H. micrantha is a western species and prefers good drainage.  However it is probably the most tolerant to heavy soils and moisture.  Zones 6-9.
H. cylindrica is tolerant to harsh winds and temperature extremes.  Zones 3-8.
H. sanguinea is extremely heat and drought tolerant.  This is where great flower colors comes from as well.  Zones 3-9.

In general, loose well drained soil is important.  Few varieties will last long in heavy or compacted soils.  Most varieties appreciate morning sun, with shade in the afternoon.  Provided those 2 conditions, most varieties will do well.  However a little research will help determine which varieties will truly thrive in your location.  In future posts, I will give which species are in the background if possible.  Some time in the next week I'll post about the green varieties.