The thrill of new discoveries has a very strong pull and I still remember the adrenalin rush associated with my early trips to the garden centres. The unlimited number of wonderfully different plants to hunt for and choose from kept the excitement high!
Fast forward ten years and though the appeal of rushing to the garden centres in spring is still strong, now I usually only visit with a specific purpose in mind. After pouring through hundreds of grower’s catalogues and garden magazines I was finding it difficult to discover exciting new treasures that I wasn’t already familiar with.
So, imagine my surprise as I explored the Perennial Plant Association web site and found amsonia hubrichtii named 2011 Perennial of the Year.
Amsonia hubrichtii, commonly known as Arkansas blue star, thread-leaf blue star, narrow leaf blue star or Hubricht’s blue star, is a graceful and long lived plant with no insect or pest problems. The foliage adds a billowy, finely textured element to the landscape. The bright green, fine leaves reach three inches long in summer turning a stunning pale pumpkin colour in autumn. Delicate two to three inch wide clusters of small, light blue, star-shaped flowers appearing above the ferny foliage in May/June are the inspiration for its name but the fall foliage is the main reason gardeners grow it. After blooming, the Blue Star quickly grows to about three feet tall and wide in a mounded form and performs best in full sun to part shade and well-drained soil. Once established the blue star is drought tolerant and can stand a season of very minimal care. The foliage and stems contain a milky sap, which makes it unappealing to deer; hardy to Zone 4.
I’m sure I’ll be able to find room in my garden for the 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year but since my garden space is now limited I’ll have to encourage my neighbours to try the 2011 Urban tree winner – the Golden Raintree (koelreuteria paniculata), chosen by the North American Society .
Because there aren’t very many different small ornamental trees available for Kootenay climates I’m always pleased to discover new varieties. Very drought tolerant once established, the Golden Raintree requires little pruning and is insect and disease resistant. It is one of the few ornamental trees that bloom in mid-summer with large clusters of showy yellow flowers followed by two inch golden seed pods that take on a luminescent glow resembling Chinese lanterns as the late summer sun filters through the open crown. Koelreuteria paniculata matures quickly to approximately 30 feet tall and wide and sports a rounded crown with upward-reaching branches and spreading habit. The leaves open as burnished copper and turn to deep green; prefers full sun and loose, well-drained soil; hardy to zone 4.
Patty Siddall operates a local garden business and shares this space with business partners Margaret Devantier and Betty Drover every other Friday.