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Six more new herbaceous perennials that will be available to you in Canada next spring
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

November 26, 2017

Above, Salvia nemerosa ‘Rose Marvel’; Salvia pratensis ‘Midnight Model’; and Hibiscus ‘Airbrush Effect’. Below, Dianthus x barbatus interspecific ‘Rockin Red’; ‘Smoke Signal’ little bluestem grass; and ‘Twilight Zone’ little bluestem grass. All photos by the introducers.




Last week I introduced you to five new herbaceous perennials that will hit the retail outlets in Canada and the US in the spring of 2018.

This week I have six more newbies which may interest perennial lovers as well.

The first is a Salvia—Salvia nemerosa ‘Rose Marvel’. It has the largest flowers of any rose or pink Salvia nemorosa on the market. Enjoy the stunning display of color in spring and summer. Plant in a sunny location in the garden and fertilize monthly for best plant health and flowering. A great advantage shown by this new cultivar is that it re-blooms without having to be cut back. The blooming season for all of the Marvel series is from early spring to late summer. They grow to a nice height and width of 25-30 cm (10-12”).

If it is other colours you are looking for you might just note that there are now 14 other cultivars with colours ranging from blue to white; and S. n. ‘Bumbleblue’ is particularly nice, I believe.

Yet another Salvia is also new for 2018—Salvia pratensis ‘Midnight Model’, also known as Fashionista sage. This group of Salvia has big, bold flowers as well as bold colours. In addition to the S. ‘Midnight Model’ shown here this group includes ‘Ballerina Pink’ and ‘Pretty in Pink’.

The bluest of blue Salvia with an improved form and habit. Big, bold flowers and impressive garden performance, this is one of the best Salvias according to the Vasey Seed Company.

The word Fashionista is often used to describe someone who is constantly on the cutting edge of beauty, representing current fashion trends. Likewise, this new collection of perennial Salvia from Walters Gardens, Inc. hybridizing represents the cutting edge of perennial fashion, with big, bold blooms in an array of chic and stylish colors. All of the varieties in this collection are Salvia pratensis hybrids, so you know you can expect excellent garden performance. Striking violet blue flowers are produced in a round, dense clump. An improvement over other blue Salvia on the market.

There is one new Hibiscus in the list of newbies for 2018, but it is not a “standard’ shrub-like Hibiscus, but rather a Rose Mallow. These have been around for years and I always considered them strictly herbaceous perennials and not shrubs as most Hibiscus are. Rose Mallows were usually featured in seed catalogues as a huge bloom behind the ear of an Asian model!

This one has vibrant pink flowers with salmon tones that have an airbrushed central white halo and a small dark red eye. Overlapping petals create a three-dimensional look to the flowers, and the rich, dark green foliage forms a compact habit. Distributors, including Sheridan Nurseries, say it is hardy to as cold as zone 4.

Hibiscus love the sun and need moist, well-drained soil. Keeping these plants watered will result in larger flowers and lush foliage. Deadheading will improve the appearance of the plant. It is best to plant Hibiscus in the garden before the heat of the summer arrives, and they should be heavily mulched the first winter. In spring, cut back any remaining stems before new growth appears. A strong pair of loppers or a saw may be necessary to cut this plant back. Be advised that Hibiscus is always one of the last perennials to emerge in spring. Its vigorous growth rate more than makes up for this late start, however.

Another Dianthus now, but this one is a relative of one of the oldest herbaceous perennials that I have grown for decades (half a century actually). It is often commonly called Sweet William and as this one’s name implies it is a bright red bloomer—Dianthus x barbatus interspecific ‘Rockin Red’.

Beautiful, vivid red flowers top the knee-high plants – a real standout in perennial borders.

Reliably overwinters to Zone 5a to assure multi-year performance. It blooms virtually constantly from early spring to late autumn. It attracts Bees, attracts Butterflies, is Water/Rain tolerant, has fragrant flowers, and is frost tolerant.

As with most Sweet Williams you may expect it to grow to a height of 46-61 cm (18-24”) and achieve a spread of 25-30 cm (10-12”). Rockin Red is a cross of D. barbatus (the beloved Bachelor's Button) with other species, and it's got the best merits of all of them. The blooms are incredibly profuse in sunny settings. Cut them for the vase and their subtle clove-like scent really comes into its own indoors; let them stay in the garden and they are a siren for butterflies! So tall, sturdy, and profuse!

Deer leave this Dianthus alone, but pollinators adore it! And the seed is easy to start indoors in late winter or in the garden after danger of frost. Dianthus likes full sun

My final two new herbaceous perennials for this week are two different cultivars of the same genus and species: Schizachyrium scoparium or Little Bluestem grass. The two cultivars are ‘Smoke Signal’ and ‘Twilight Zone’.

Let’s look at ‘Smoke Signal’ first. A native grass, which used to be widely distributed all over the Great Plains of the US. This selection features sturdy, tight, upright stems in blue-green and offers amazing fall colour when it turns a deep, red-purple. Small tan seed heads appear in late summer and through to fall. It tolerates dryness, heat and humidity, and provides excellent winter interest.

‘Twilight Zone’ is a recent introduction by Walters Gardens, Schizachyrium scoparium 'Twilight Zone' colours up earlier than other little bluestems exhibiting silvery blue blades with mauve purple cast throughout the plant beginning in mid-summer.

This one grows to 122-157 cm (4-4 1/2 ') tall and takes on a decidedly silvery purple iridescent look in mid-summer, gradually deepening to a darker violet tone in autumn. Winter colour is a tawny gold. Some suggest pairing this grass with silver toned plants, such as Pycnanthemum muticum, as well as other plants that don't mind dry, lean conditions, such as Teucrium, Agastache and Kniphofia.

Next week I’ll have another half dozen of the new ones, including an orangey daylily (Hemerocallis) and dwarf cultivars of Paeonia and Hosta.


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