Sending for Reinforcements: New Plants for Spring and Favorite Catalogs

Yesterday the letter carrier brought tidings of great joy: two of my favorite gardening catalogs, Prairie Nursery and Forestfarm.

Their arrival, along with several others of their kind, means that it is time to put in my orders for spring. And so  here’s my intended line-up – it’s easy to tell I am focusing on butterfly friendly plants, as well as the color blue.

Fringe Tree, Chionanthus virginicus
Fringe Tree. Photo: Missouri Botanic Garden

Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus). I became determined to buy this small flowering tree after reading about it in Traci DiSabato-Aust’s The Well-Designed Mixed Garden. Unique, fragrant white flowers, blue fruits attractive to birds, good yellow fall color. Also does well in shade. I’m going to put one at the northeast corner of the house where the Bridalwreath is now, and one in the back.

Buddleia_Blue-Chip-Lo-and-Behold-Series
Butterfly Bush ‘Blue Chip’ Photo: Bluestone Perennials

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’). These are dwarf butterfly bush that are supposed to grow to 3′. I’m going to plant them with the Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) and Bluestem goldenrod (Solidago caesia) at the north end of the driveway border. I’ve tried to grow these unsuccessfully in containers.

Bluebeard 'Longwood Blue'
Bluebeard ‘Longwood Blue’ Photo: Wayside Gardens

Bluebeard (Caryopteris xclandonensis ‘Longwood Blue’). This will be at the south end of the driveway border with the False Indigo (Baptisia australis) and the Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum ‘Gateway’). This is a taller variety, supposed to grow to 4′. In my zone the stems will die back every winter, so I’ll treat it as a perennial.

Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa
Butterflyweed

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa). These will join the Butterflyweed I already have growing on the west side of the driveway border. They will be placed behind the Nepeta, making a nice color and texture contrast with their orange umbels and slightly shiny foliage.

Yellow Coneflower, Ratibida pinnata
Yellow Coneflower

Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata). The new Ratibida will join the few I already have growing next to the Anise Hyssop in the driveway border.

Blue Cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides
Blue Cohosh  Photo: Prairie Nursery

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides). A woodland perennial with unusual flowers, lacy foliage, and attractive blue berries. Putting these in my shade garden in the back.

Salvia nemerosa 'Carradonna'
Salvia ‘Carradonna’  Photo: Bluestone Perennials

Salvia (Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna’ and ‘Blue Hill’). These will go at the east end of the parkway, which I’m trying to fill with plants shorter than what I have now (I redid the west end last fall).

Calamintha nepetoides
Calamintha  Photo: Bluestone Perennials

Calamint (Calamintha nepetoides). Similar to Nepeta but with white flowers, also destined for the parkway.

Sundrops, Oenothera fruticosa 'Summer Solstice'
Sundrops ‘Summer Solstice’ Photo: Bluestone Perennials

Sundrops (Oenothera tetragona ‘Summer Solstice’). Bright yellow saucers to provide a contrasting accent to the Salvia above.

Schizachyrium scoparius, Little Bluestem 'The Blues'
Little Bluestem ‘The Blues’  Photo: Bluestone Perennials

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’).  This will go in the raised bed on the east side of the parkway.

So what do you think? I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, so I’m open to feedback (alternative cultivars, etc.).

Also, here are a few more of my favorite retail nurseries that sell online: Prairie Moon (midwest natives), Bluestone Perennials (wide variety of perennials, some shrubs), Shooting Star (natives of the midwest and Appalachian regions). Do you have any particular online nursery favorites?

40 Comments on “Sending for Reinforcements: New Plants for Spring and Favorite Catalogs

  1. Wonderful selections Jason! That Fringe tree is out of this world awesome! I think I need one of those asap! I think it is time for you to pull the trigger and put in your order!!

  2. Thanks for sharing! This was a really fun post. You made me want to run to the nursery. I’m excited to see the blue cohosh, coneflowers and butterfly bushes in action. Those and the fringe tree are my favorites from your list. Everything you chose sounds perfect for what you had in mind. I hope Blue Chip lives up to your expectations. Happy orderning!

    • Thanks! At first I was going to order another Buddleia variety, something more in the 4-5′ range, but thought it might overwhelm its neighbors.

  3. Nice choices! Wow on the fringetree!!

    I’ve grown several of your picks and I’ll want to see how yours do. Blue Chip buddleia was a cutie, low and tidy, with magenta flowers for me (not blue-purple like I expected). The sundrops are such a clear bright pop, I can see mine from far away. They’ll spread. And the orange butterfly weed is also a bright pop– mine took about three years to get going though, they were nothing to look at the first years.

    And the caryopteris has been a favorite of mine, very easy to grow. Mine dies back as yours will. I leave the stems up all winter, they are quite attractive, then lop them off in March and the plant regrows. You’re going to be happy with what you’re ordering!

    • I devoutly hope my ‘Blue Chip’ does not have magenta flowers, but we’ll see. I’ve never grown Caryopteris, but they have practically a whole field of it at the Chicago Botanic Garden, with red poppies in front. It’s magnificent!

  4. what an exciting selection! Your garden is going to look stunning. I can’t wait to see it! I used to grow salvia but the snails adored it more than me and seriously stripped it bare and the plants just didn’t survive. I hope they’re kinder to you across the other side of the pond!

    • I think your more moist, mild climate (I’m guessing) brings with it a lot more snails than we have. Snails are one problem I don’t really have. But I’d send you some rabbits and skunks in exchange for some of your snails.

      • Haha! Skunks!! We definitely don’t get those!! I would happily send you all my snails Jason, but I know that they would just come back… seriously they have some kind of homing instinct. I’m glad your salvia will be safe from them 🙂 You’re gona have one awesome garden this year dude!!

  5. I love your selections, and the nurseries look very tempting. I must resist, though. I’ve shopped with Bluestone Perennials with mixed results – and it was not their fault. I’ve found that I have the best luck when I order plants from nurseries that grow the plants in a climate similar to my own growing conditions, which is why I try to resist White Flower Farm, Bluestone Perennials, etc.

    • That is wise, and I tend to stick usually with nurseries in the midwest and northeast for the same reason. I do occasionally order from Forestfarm and Heirloom Roses, both in Oregon, and I order my daylilies from Oakes in Tennessee. I’ve generally done ok with those retailiers.

  6. WordPress is driving me crazy! I just realized I missed about 6 or so of your comments and replies! Ugh! Anyway, as I type this for the 2nd time.. Glad you choose the calamintha and ‘Caradona’. Both respond well to pinching. The blue cohosh I found to be anticlimatic. The Blue Chip is indeed a violet magenta. I like the “Dark Knight’ caryopteris cultivar. Here it doesn’t truly die to the ground, and respond well to hard trimming once growth has resumed and continual pinching. It will bloom from all terminal growth and even axial shoots will bloom once terminal blooms are removed, similar to butterfly bushes. Caryopteris is truly blue. If you are looking for another blue, the catmint subsessilus is dramatically different from the typical catmint. Much more limey green foliage and larger, bluer flowers; it has a natural contrast of blue and yellow. Also I have a clematis heraclefolia for you once the weather breaks.

    • Let me guess, was I sent into the spam folder? That’s happened before. But usually when that happened I didn’t see my comments appear. You’ve got me thinking twice about the Blue Cohosh and Blue Chip. Maybe I’ll just get one of the Blue Cohosh and see if I like it. I looked up that Clematis and I LOVE it!

      • Regarding the Blue Chip; I wonder if it has to do with your zone? Mine is not magenta at all. Its purple that leans towards blue. There is a dot of red in the individual blooms. True, it does not get many butterflies but bees and hummingbirds visit mine. So much anticipation is building up around your butterfly pics! You have to post pics a few months after you have planted it!!!

  7. Hi Jason, some lovely plants in that selection, the blue Cohosh looks very unusual. I would love to rush out and buy lots of new plants but I am committed to the sets growing from seed in the greenhouses. There are so many that when it comes to planting them out, it’ll be like going to my own mini-nursery!

  8. Oh, these are wonderful! And thanks to you, I have now added a couple of plants for my list – except I need to find a place to put them first! 😉 Love the fringe tree, and that blue cohosh is stunning! I have bluebeards – I recommend them!

  9. Two thumbs up from me for the calamint and Blue Hill salvia. Got both toward the end of last summer and they both did well, despite the drought. Blue Hill is a great shade of blue!

    • Well, if next year is anything like last, that will stand them in very good stead. Blue Hill is a great color – like a clear sky.

  10. Great choices. I hope you’re going to love the Carradona as much as I do. Such a vibrant blue, and a great performer.

  11. Hi Jason, first of all I have to apologize for not following your blog for quite a long time, I might have stumbled upon that “+” that makes the difference between follow and unfollow on WordPress.
    I totally agree with your choices, that fringe tree looks great, I’ve never seen it before (although I have that Di Sabato’s book but I seldom open it because I don’t like her). I grew ratibida in my previous garden, just for one season, then I couldn’t reseed it and I lost it. It’s a shame since that plant is impossible to find here in Italy. I want that calamintha too this year.
    As for the oenothera, I love all of them, shame that most of them only opens at sunset.

  12. Blue cohosh, I have never seen that before and it’s so blue. I like grasses, all of these plants would be nice in your garden, a really great selection.

  13. Blue and butterfly is my motto too. But Blue Chip rarely gets a butterfly in my garden. Bees like it though. Sundrops also is a no show. Longwood Blue gets lots of Cabbage butterflies, and hoards of bees.

  14. Hi Jason, you have a lot of plants i love, most especially because of my bias for dark violets to blue. That blue cohosh berries are so amusing, as if they are not real.

  15. Hi Jason. Just ran across this, looking for something else. Like the Silphium, btw. A couple things : A good companion for the Asclepias is Blueweed, (Echium vulgare) They do well in average to dry sunny spots. It’s a self-sowing bienniel, though not wildly so, i.e. not invasive. Best of all, you can probably find them for free. They tend to grow in waste places, such as the side of roads, and abandoned gravel lots. They are more showy in the garden, than in those locations.Collect the seed, and sow it directly. Some will come up in the fall, to bloom the following year, and some in the spring, to bloom the second year after sowing. I planted both of those at the end of my driveway, where it was too far too water. It looked so good that people frequently stopped to ask about both. It became the basis of a completely blue and orange garden.
    On the Little Bluestem, you’ll probably like ‘Carousel’, or ‘Standing Ovation’, better. I like the grass, no matter what, but it tends to flop, Nice blue in the summer, and good orange fall color. I read a description sowhere, the compared it to a drunken frat boy, AFTER the party. :))) I planted some ‘The Blues’ a few years ago. Even though they were the same variety, they were all different.Only one was upright, like your photo. Last year, I dug them all, divided the upright one, and replanted those in place of the others.
    ‘Carousel’ is very similar to ‘The Blues’ but reliably upright (for the couple months that I saw them – sold them all, and didn’t see them in fall) ‘ Standing Ovation’ is 1.5-2x as tall, very stiffly upright, and turns plum purple, before going to orange/red/tan.

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