“51 of the hottest of the hot plants” from Garden Design magazine

In the early Spring 2015 issue of Garden DesignI was immediately drawn to Jenny Andrews’ article: “51 hottest of the hot plants.” Ms. Andrews compiled the suggestions of 12 garden pros and organized them into 7 categories. I perused the article and considered my own favorites for the Southeast.

In the “Sturdy & Stylish” category, I was attracted to the reddish-brown, chocolate-scented flowers of chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus), a tender tuberous-rooted perennial from Mexico (USDA Zones 7-11). ‘Chocamocha’ is a burgundy-flowered selection that is considered to be more floriferous and more compact than the species.

The multicolored IntRose01 Calypso rose (Rosa ‘IntRose01’ Sweet Spot™ Calypso) whose flowers sport shades of pinkish-red, yellow with dark pink centers. This two-foot tall beauty is reported to bloom from spring to fall (I would expect a floral rest in the heat of mid-summer in our region). (The number 1 plant in this category is Blonde Ambition blue grama grass [Bouteloua gracilis]With the two side-by-side photos of IntRos01 Calypso rose and Blonde Ambition, I was not attracted to the blue grama grass, despite its native southwestern heritage and interesting yellow-gold seedheads).

The “Shady Characters” that I’d like to include in my garden are variegated Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata’ Camouflage™) and the Japanese camellia from Nuccio’s Nurseries in Altadena, California, Camellia japonica ‘Nuccio’s Bella Rossa’.

For “Bountiful Blooms”, I love the old-fashioned flowering quince, Chaenomeles speciosa Double Take™ series (USDA cold hardiness zones 5-8). Developed by NC State professor, Tom Ranney, Ph.D. et al., their early spring (February to April) camellia-like flowers borne on branches that have few to no thorns are guaranteed to give you “spring fever”: Scarlet Storm (scarlet), Orange Storm, and Pink Storm (hot pink).

The herbaceous perennial foxglove hybrid, Ruby Glow, which is an intergeneric hybrid—a cross between Digitalis and the Mediterranean shrub Isoplexis (a.k.a. Digiplexis), is part of the Foxlight Series from Darwin Perennials, a division of Ball Horticultural Co., which includes Plum Gold and Rose Ivory. I’d like to see how Ruby Glow and its mates stack up against other foxglove hybrids, such as Berry Canary and Illumination Flame.

For “Fun Foliage” I’m attracted to Godzilla Japanese painted fern (Athyrium ‘Godzilla’), a 3 ft. tall by 6.5 ft. wide gargantuan fern that—according to Tony Avent—is a probably cross between Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) and lady fern (Athyriuim filix-femina). For its sheer size and red, silver, and green foliar highlights, it’s a must-have fern for the shade garden.

In “Sun Lovers,” I was immediately drawn to the blue leaves of whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia). Blue is my favorite garden color, and this blue-leaved succulent that’s native to Mexico in the words of Tony Avent: “Has proven to be one of the best agaves for cold, wet climates, for outperforming almost all other species.”

In “Little Lovelies” I’m fond of Pink Icing™ blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), a new variety of BrazelBerries® blueberry from Fall Creek Farm & Nursery in Oregon. Here’s another blueberry that should be included in the edible landscape. It joins Fall Creek’s other blueberries, Peach Sorbet™ and Jelly Bean™.

In the “Uncommon Cravings” category, Madi-II Chinese dogwood leapt from the page. Introduced in 2014 by Brotzman’s Nursery in Ohio and discovered as a chance seedling, Madi-II’ Cornus kousa var. chinensis ‘Madi-II’ Mandarin Jewel™) bears white floral bracts in late Spring, typical of kousa dogwoods. However, it differs with the production of pumpkin-orange drupes—not red–that persist against a backdrop of yellow-orange fall color.

To see the entire list of 51 plants, see the article (p. 80-95) by Jenny Andrews in the Early Spring 2015 issue of Garden Design.

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