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Rosa laevigata A Gardener's Wish List, by Tracey Warton
   It's snowing and freezing and miserable perfect weather for curling up with the 1999 plant and seed catalogues and planning additions to next year's garden. I've noted some interesting plants you might want to keep an eye out for as you do your own planning. They are not all "new" but they have all caught my attention for one reason or another. Some we have here on campus, and some I have personal experience with in my own gardens; others are on my "wish list" every gardener I know has one of those!
    Echinacea tennesseensis is shorter than the common purple coneflower with bright pink forward-facing 3- inch flowers all summer. Hardy to zone 4, it grows 24 to 30 inches tall.
    Lilium 'White Angel' looks like L. speciosum var. album, which I had in the garden about fifteen years ago and lost to predatory rodents. Seeing the picture brought back memories of its ethereal beauty 5 to 6 feet tall, with pendant pure white flowers and recurved petals, wonderfully fragrant, and outstanding against a dark green background. To discourage voles, plant in wire cages or use plastic net bags specifically for bulb protection.
    Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice' is not new, but I experienced my first full growing season with this plant last year and was very impressed. This summersweet actually lived up to all the promises and dramatic prose plant catalogues are famous for. Dark rose sweet-smelling spikes are hummingbird heaven. This is a nice sturdy plant with shiny, dark green foliage. Height will hopefully top at 5 to 6 feet, but clethras take pruning pretty gracefully.
    Daphne caucasica, an absolutely wonderful daphne, is finally becoming more widely available. The plant in my garden has fragrant white flowers literally from May until snowfall. We have a specimen in the Rock Garden here at Smith. Daphne caucasica, one of the parents of the Daphne x burkwoodii hybrids 'Somerset' and 'Carol Mackie,' is hard to beat underplanted with Brunnera macrophylla, Siberian bugloss, with azure blue flowers. Both Daphne 'Carol Mackie' and Brunnera macrophylla can be seen in the Ruth Brown Richardson perennial border, along the fence at the Botanic Garden.
    Cimicifuga racemosa 'Brunette' is a fantastic deep purple-stemmed snakeroot, with fragrant spikes 6 feet tall. Also look for Cimicifuga racemosa 'Hillside Black Beauty.' This selection is from the McGourtys' wonderful garden in Connecticut which I had the pleasure to visit last summer. (Don't miss Mary Ann McGourty's talk at the opening of the Bulb Show; see the events page.) Don't pay the incredible prices in the mail-order catalogues look for the plants at local nurseries where they'll be bigger and less expensive.
    Another fantastic visit last season was to Cricket Hill Garden in Thomaston, Connecticut. The very hospitable hosts grow Chinese tree peonies, fabulous plants with names like "Intoxicated Celestial Peach" and "Coiled Dragon in the Mist Grasping a Purple Pearl." The garden in May is an unforgettable
spacer experience. Besides the Chinese tree peonies, they have some of the Daphnis and Saunders hybrids, which differ in form and color and are even more magnificent than the Chinese varieties (in my humble opinion, that is). Peony breeders are also working on hybrids between herbaceous and tree peonies, which have incredible garden potential a few of these Itoh or intersectional hybrids can also be seen at Cricket Hill. Come see the Chinese tree peony "Grand Duke Dressed in Blue and Purple" in the Ranunculaceae bed in the Systematics Garden as well as some other fine tree peonies in the perennial border.
    Salvia 'Black and Blue' is the salvia for the border or cutting garden. It is 3 to 4 feet tall with violet petals and almost black sepals. Flowers are in spikes that lengthen as they mature, twisting and turning. This tender perennial needs pinching at first, and staking if exposed to wind, but it's worth the trouble. It looks great when grown with Salvia guaranitica 'Argentine Skies' or Salvia x 'Indigo Spires,' and when grouped with lush yellow roses like Rosa 'Graham Thomas' and 'The Pilgrim' (both English roses from David Austin).
    Rosa 'Heritage,' another Austin selection, has truly proven itself to be the best all-around rose I have ever grown. There were 32 rose varieties in my old garden and 38 in my new one, so that's a serious compliment. I've grown 'Heritage' in both. It was one of the first things I planted at my new house in the summer of '97, and this past season the plant was 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide, robust, with lovely foliage and covered with fragrant pink roses until December! Of course, last winter was very mild. It will be interesting to see how the roses come through after the low temperatures and vicious wind-chill factors we've had this winter. Also, the long, mild autumn may have prevented plants from hardening off gradually before the onset of very low temperatures. We might see a lot more damage come spring. Another wonderful rose, a climber to 8 feet, is Rosa 'Eden,' also known as Rosa 'Pierre de Ronsard.' The fragrant flowers are cream blushed pink, large, and slightly quartered with that "old rose" look.
    Nicotiana suaveolens is an annual flowering tobacco I grew in my garden last summer. Smaller in both height and flower than the other, more well known nicotianas, this species has pendent white bells in great numbers and grows to about 2 feet. It makes a great companion to a background of delphiniums, flowers all summer, and self-sows. See it for yourself in the Solanaceae bed in the Systematics Garden this summer.
    Look for Lespedeza thunbergii 'Alba,' the white-flowered form of another favorite. Graham Stuart Thomas calls the species "one of the last gorgeous splashes of color of the year." The white form of this leguminous dieback shrub looks like a waterfall, and mixes beautifully in the border. It might be nice planted next to a pond so it can cascade over the edge. I hear it's more vertical in habit than Lespedeza thunbergii 'Gibraltar,' which has dark-pink flowers and is very graceful. Both are at their best in late August into September.
    For more late-season color, look for Dendranthema (formerly Chrysanthemum) 'Sheffield' introduced by Fred McGourty at Hillside Gardens. Large, single salmon-pink daisies bloom from September until Christmas on a very hardy and vigorous plant, with nice long stems for great cut flowers. This cultivar has been around for a long time but has never sold well at nurseries that usually close for the season before the flowers open. We have another of this same type of late flowering daisy, known here only as 'Korean Tan,' growing in the perennial border. It's been very popular with visitors.
    Daylily fans will be interested in the increasing popularity of what are called "spider variants." These forms have long, thin, sometimes-twisted petals and names like Hemerocallis 'Red Ribbons,' 'Twist of Lemon,' 'Mynelles Starfish,' and 'Dark Star.' Individual flowers can be 10 inches across! Although these may sound like deformed daylilies on steroids, some are exceedingly beautiful with unexpected grace.
    I hope I've helped you forget the ice and snow and cold for a few minutes. If you have questions or comments feel free to email me at twarton@sophia.smith.edu. Enjoy the winter rest all gardeners deserve, and good luck keeping your wish list under control!
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