Wednesday, January 5, 2022

2021: A Year in Plants Review

Warning: This is going to be wordy early and then become a very picture heavy post. I took a LOT of pictures last year. This will be but a fraction of them. I suppose I ought to review the actual year though first, yeah? 

Maybe equally important: a quick 2020 recap might be in order. Otherwise you may be a bit lost if you don't follow the nursery's website, social media, or know me personally. I don't think I discussed this on the blog at all. In January 2020 I was diagnosed with early stage stomach cancer. I had surgery, chemo, and some setbacks. It was hard, but mostly it was an upward trajectory and I never lost hope or my positive outlook. I came through it feeling good about the future. 

2020 started low and had a mostly steady upward climb. 2021 was much more of a roller coaster. We brought in a good selection of neat new and old plants. Due to industry shortages and other factors we got shorted more plants than ever in my 25 year career. Area for the nursery got graded. It was a longer process and slightly more expensive than expected. We had record sales. We had record expenses. I got to go out and do a lot of botanizing in early spring. I didn't get back out to collect seed. The pandemic started to abate a little. We got a new logo, new shirts, and A BANNER! We did a couple in-person events, including hosting our first open house at the nursery, and got to see some old friends. A monitoring CT scan found a new mass, we thought I was dying. I got a lot of new plants in the ground. I got lyme's disease. I did some hybridizing. We found out I'm not dying (any faster than normal anyway). Several friends from the Hosta hobby passed away. I started more chemo, but the side effects aren't awful. We got the hoophouse up before winter. We got the website (mostly) done for spring. The pandemic got worse again. Because of industry shortages I'm getting ready for 2023 and even 2024 already. 

I think that about covers it. I'm not gonna lie, it was a rough year. It took almost 6 weeks to get a full diagnosis with good news and another 6 weeks to have a treatment plan and path forward. Basically all summer. By fall, for the first time, plants felt like work that I didn't want to do. Luckily it was a short phase - I'm over it and plants are fun. I'm looking forward to hopefully selling plants at conventions in 2022. 

Ok. Less talk, more rock. 

Bloom season started out, of course, with witch hazel. Hamamelis vernalis 'Purple Prince' purchased from Songsparrow in 2020, gave me blooms at the end of March.

Some succulents that I wasn't sure would survive our wet winter did fairly well. I've heard lots of reports of Sempervivum 'Gold Nugget' struggling even in crevice gardens. It had some winter damage as you can see, but recovered beautifully. Orostachys spinosus did great, but unfortunately the chipmunks decided it was offensive and removed it. I'll need several new ones. 
Our hundreds of naturally occurring Trillium grandiflorum and cultivated Trillium luteum are always impressive. 
Brunnera perform well here. 'Sterling Silver' has grown well since last year and does indeed seem to be an improvement over 'Jack Frost'. I added 'Diane's Gold', which seems to be a love it or hate it plant. I do like it. I also think it could be better. 
Allium listera is maybe the rarest plant in my collection, thanks to my friend Mark McDonough for sending it to me. He thinks we're possibly the only two people in the US who have it. 
Polemonium 'Heaven Scent' continues to be amazing. It's easy to grow, fragrant, and beautiful. Why don't more people buy this? 
The native Swida (formerly Cornus) sericea that emerges with gold foliage I found many years ago still looks great in spring. It's planted at my in-laws' house. I finally moved a small rooted layer from this plant to our house. 
The Iris x robusta that start out with purple foliage were somewhat unimpressive this year. 'Gerald Darby' (top) was barely purple at all. 'Dark Aura' is still superior in my garden, but even it was less than great this year.

Iris odasaenanensis 'Ice Whisper' bloomed already in spring, despite being small and newly planted in September 2020. 
Iris dabashanensis also bloomed already. Very excited by these woodland Iris. 
I added some Magnolia this year, including 'Sunsation' which I hope will survive our winters. 
Phlox divaricata looks great in a naturalized area. 
There is some debate whether Phlox 'Chatahoochie' is a selection of P. divaricata ssp laphamii or a hybrid of P. divaricata ssp laphamii x P. pilosa. Talking to Peter Zale and reading accounts from others, it seems like there are several clones of 'Chatahoochie' out there. This one definitely seems like a hybrid; it emerges from dormancy and starts blooming later than my P. divaricata ssp laphamii, and the foliage is darker green, stiffer, and narrower. 

Dicentra spectablis 'Cupid' is a nice pale pink form of old-fashioned bleeding heart. 

The Primula were all really nice this year, and I got some first time blooms on seed obtained in 2019 from the American Primrose Society. I highly recommend joining if you're at all interested in these plants. 

Syringa x chinensis 'Lilac Sunday' is impressive. It sets both terminal and axillary flower buds, giving the appearance of one massive flower cluster. 

Lamiastrum galeobdolon 'Herman's Pride' is a well-behaved selection that is clump-forming rather than running. Cheery yellow flowers and silver patterned leaves are delightful. 

Epimedium are continuing to establish and do well. This E. wushanense 'Sandy Claws' is surviving so far and even gave me some flowers. 

Convallaria majalis 'Albostriata' is beautiful but may be aggressive. I may relegate this to a container if it seems to get to rambunctions. 

'Stainless Steel'
'Peachberry Ice'
'Carnival Peach Parfait'
'Color Dream'
'Silver Scrolls'
Heuchera continue to be an obsession. I found some nice specimens of 'Silver Scrolls' at our local post office, which is nice to see. Despite its popularity many years ago, I don't see it around much. It's a great older variety that survives in the midwest beautifully, like most introductions from Charles Oliver. I continue to slowly update The Heuchera Library

'Restless Sea' in spring
'Restless Sea' in September
'Winter Snow'
'Frisian Pride'
'Bitsy Gold'
'Blue Mouse Ears'
'Candy Kisses'
H. clausa var. normalis
'Con Te Partiro'
'Country Melody'
'Cranberry Wine'
'Deep Blue Sea'
'Family Crest'
'Feng Shui'
'Flemish Sky'
'Frosted Dimples' with Leucosceptrum japonicum 'Gold Angel'
'Frosted Frolic'
'Fruit Loop' with Chelonopsis yagiharana
'Katie Q'
'Mito No Hana'
'Mount Everest'
'Munchkin Fire'
'Olympic Edger'
'Patriot's Fire'
'Pixie Vamp'
'Silver Threads and Golden Needles'
'Singin' the Blues'
'Slim and Trim'
'Sparkling Burgundy'
'Spooky Scary Skeletons'
'Sterling Medallion'
'Valley's Ruffle Shuffle'
'Vulcan Ears'
'Yellow Polka Dot Bikin'

Hostas of course are still the most numerous plants in my collection. I got several new ones this year, moved several here from the in-laws' house, and was gifted two from one of my chemo nurses who is a certified Hostaholic. I also did some hybridizing for the first time in a few years. I didn't get all my seed collected, but I got enough. If you're a Hosta nerd like me, consider joining the American Hosta Society

Baptisia 'Cinnamon Toast'
Baptisia 'Dutch Chocolate'
The false indigos are all settling in beautifully. They're starting to get dense and bloom very well. Just another few years and they'll be mature clumps. 

Penstemon 'Dark Tower'
Penstemon hirsutus
Clematis 'Asao'
Clematis texensis 'Duchess of Albany'
Lily bloom season kicks off in June with the martagon hybrids. We're ground zero for red lily beetle in Wisconsin so I've stopped adding to my collection. A single spraying of acetamiprid gave me good control all season. It's a more friendly systemic neonictinoid in that it doesn't translocate through the plant but has good translaminar action. This means it moves from the top surface of the leaf to the bottom of the leaf, but it doesn't move through the plant to pollen or nectar, which greatly reduces exposure to pollinators. 

'Burst of Joy'
'Coral Cove'
'Nuits De Young'
R. wichuriana 'Curiosity'
'Miracle on the Hudson'
Roses are a love I don't talk about much for some reason. I've ground hundreds of varieties in a production environment and have grown dozens in the garden. Some may be short lived since I'm so far north. I don't fully expect our new additions of 'Coral Cove', 'Burst of Joy', or 'All the Rage' to survive winter, but obviously hope they do. If not, I'll replace with something else. 'Nuits De Young' is an old moss that's very  hardy, 'Curiosity' is probably hardy as long as we have good snow cover, and 'Miracle on the Hudson' is outstanding so far. 
Veronica 'Charlote' might be the nicest Veronica I've ever grown. It hasn't gotten mildew, it doesn't struggle here, and it's variegated to boot!
Cirsium rivulare 'Trevor's Blue Wonder' is more delightful than I ever could have hoped. It bloomed repeatedly through summer and was usually covered in bumble bees and butterflies. This is the odd insect free moment. 
Asiatic lily 'Purple Dream' 
Asiatic lily 'Night Rider'
Asiatic lily 'Stracciatella Event'
Asiatic lily 'Chocolate Event'
Asiatic-Oriental-Asiatic hybrid 'Hotel California'
Oriental-nepalense hybrid 'Kushi Maya'
Oriental-nepalense F2 hybrid 'African Lady'
Lily bloom continued in July with the asiatics, AOA, and finally interdivisional hybrids. The interdivisional hybrids are very fragrant. You can see some lily beetle damage that occurred before I sprayed 'African Lady'. 

Astilbe 'Visioin Inferno' is a great plant with a name I strongly dislike. Nothing about pale pink flowers screams INFERNO! to me. But it seems to be one of the best of the visions series I've grown. 

Silphium perfoliatum 'The Holy Grail'

'Burnin' Down the Town'
'Field of Screams'
'Fringed Sweetheart'
'Fujita Scale'
'Gala Finale'
'Paul Voth'
'Red Nova'
'Strutters Ball'
I've had a long time love affair with daylilies and a few new ones were added again this year during our annual trip to Solaris Farms. Nate Bremer is a great guy and I can't recommend them highly enough for daylilies, peonies, or lilies. 

Hydrangea arborescens 'Haas Halo'
Hydrangea arborescens 'Hayes Starburst'
Hydrangea arborescens Invincibelle Spirit II
Hydrangea arborescens Invincibelle Spirit
Hydrangea arborescens 'Emerald Lace' aka 'Green Dragon', 'Riven Lace' 
I continue to add more Hydrangeas. They're indispensable shrubs for shade gardens. 

Echinacea sanguinea from Texas survived winter which was a big surprise. Hopefully it continues to do well. 
Echinacea 'Wild Horses' has gotten even more impressive and is one of my favorite subtle hybrids. It starts out a pale peach and matures light pink. 
Aconitum uncinatum 'White Witch' was added late last year and bloomed this season. Delightful selection of an eastern US native. 

Clethra alnifolia 'Woodlanders Sarah' was a new addition this year. I'm excited to have good conditions for the species here and look forward to adding more. 

Hibiscus 'Holy Grail' came back beautifully and finally started blooming in August. 
I finally got a chance to visit Glenn Herold this year. He has a great collection of plants, including this mature Symphoricarpos 'Sofia' Proud Berry. He also gifted me Hydrangea arborescens 'Green Dragon'.
I thought Vernonia 'Southern Cross' had died, but it was just very late to come up and didn't emerge form dormancy until June. But it was big and beautiful by September. 

I wasn't sure Rabdosia longituba would even survive, much less bloom. But bloom it did. Though it might be killed by frost before bloom most years. 

I did manage to get out to the county arboretum and collect seed from a couple specimens of Hamamelis virginiana. It's a delightful species, even if the flowers are usually hidden by yellow fall color. It's an important last food for pollinators here. 

The bloom season concluded with this Hamamelis 'Beholden', just in time for Thanksgiving. We had a fairly mild fall, it will be interesting to see how this variety blooms in the future. It's known for November bloom in warmer climates. It may hold off until late winter here most years.
The last plant picture I took of 2021 is of Hamamelis 'Winter Champagne', which is likely a hybrid between H. virginiana and H. vernalis. It's known for blooming in December, but we're too cold for such foolishness here. It will wait until we have a warm spell, buds ready to bloom. I suppose it signifies hope for 2022. Stay warm. Stay safe. Stay healthy.