This Week It Is Four More New Herbaceous Perennials
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

January 24, 2016

Above, Leucanthemum x superbum (Spellbook Lumos leucanthemum); Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sea Shell’. Below, Panicum virgatum ‘Hot Rod’ (Hot Rod virgatum); and Veronica austriaca ‘Venice Blue’ (Venice Blue austrica)




The first of my four new plants this week is a close cousin of what many casual gardeners call a Chrysanthemum. But, it is not a Chrysanthemum, rather a Leucanthemum, specifically L. x superbum or Spellbook Lumos leucanthemum. Most Leucanthemum superbum plants that I have seen previously were predominately white in colour. This one, as you can see from the tiny photo is a bright yellow. It will lighten up any garden with its non-fading flowers. It needs to grow in full sun, and is small in stature, growing only to a height of 30 cm+ (one ft.+). It has a strong and sturdy habit and is said to be super floriferous, blooming from mid-spring through the summer. The pro-ducers say “these re-blooming beauties are fantastic for cool season combinations.” It is hardy to zone 5 and should be available from retail outlets who sell perennials from Valleybrook Gardens.

One seldom sees new Paeonia cultivars available in new cultivar lists such as this, but this year is an exception to that ‘rule’. Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sea Shell’ has highly fragrant blossoms of a shell pink colour with large orange centres. The plants are tall and graceful, but because the flowers are relatively light, they seldom require staking. The rich green foliage colour is maintained well into the season. The producer recommends the plant for beds, borders and even foundation planting. Sea Shell is an herbaceous fast grower that blooms in mid-spring. It prefers full sun locations. It will grow 76 – 91 cm (30 – 36 in.) tall and 61 – 76 cm (24 -30 in.) wide. Willowbrook Nurseries is the wholesale distributor in Canada.

My third choice for this week is an ornamental grass and the growers say it is the earliest purple colour of any perennial grass that they have seen. Panicum virgatum ‘Hot Rod’ or Hot Rod virgatum apparently starts off with blue-green foliage and then develops burgundy tips early, turning fully burgundy during the summer. The attractive airy seed heads are burgundy as well and start appearing as early as July. The plants are drought and salt tolerant, are native and deer-resistant. The producers suggest cutting some dried bouquets during the later summer, then leaving the seed heads on during the winter months for the wildlife to enjoy.

Care of this plant is simple. It should be cut back in March before any new growth appears. Gardeners will find it useful in beds and borders. As to the amount of light, it prefers full or part sun. It will be found hardy in zones 4 to 10.

It grows 91 – 106 cm (3 – 4 ft.) tall and 61 – 76 cm (24 -30 in.) wide. As with the peony above, it is being wholesaled by Willowbrook Nurseries.

Finally for the herbaceous perennials this week I have Venice Blue austriaca (Veronica austriaca ‘Venice Blue’). It has rich blue flowers on spikes—the largest in its class. The flower spikes are short but each contains multiple flowers. Flowering in the spring it prefers full sun and is heat tolerant once roots are established. This is an easy-to-grow plant with tooth-like bright green foliage.

This Veronica is hardy at least to zone 5. It grows 30 cm (one ft.) tall. Availability to garden centres will be from Valleybrook Gardens.

Still to come in subsequent weeks are a few new roses and many new annual flowers.


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