Nominations for the 2019 Garden Performer of the Year

I recently polled some of Garden Club of Dener’s gardening mavens for their favorite gardens plants of 2019. Early summer hail and the ubiquitous and voracious Japanese beetle weighted the selection toward end-of-summer plants, but I thought the comments were funny and useful in planning for next summer.

Debbie Davis: “Hail, Japanese beetles and then dahlias, because they came after both.”
Suellen White: “Dahlias. A late summer blast of stunning color and drama.”
Courtney Marsters: “Japanese forest grass (Hakenochloa macra ‘Aureola’) and European ginger (Asarum europaeum). Hail resistant, shade lovers, great texture.”
Missy Eliot: “My best performers were pink campion, red lobelia and good old Centaura ‘montana’.”
Cynthia Scott: “Alliums! They start early and go through August (different varieties). Good seed heads after they bloom, no critters bother them and pollinators love them. Large and small purples, pink, white, magenta and blue! Also Maximillian sunflower. So tall, a late showstopper and a great pollinator plant. Goes great with Joe Pye Weed!”
Nancy Schotters: “Scabiosa caucasica ‘Fama White’ and ‘Fama Blue’ – all summer long. Verbena ‘Annie’ from High Country Gardens – ground cover that is beautiful and fragrant, again, all summer long.”
Deborah Foy: “Dahlias were spectacular! Also, Double Cranberry Cosmos – three feet plus tall and non-stop bloomers.”
Janet Manning: “A lily named ‘Conca d’Or’. It’s one that I purchased at the summer bulb workshop that Missy had in 2018.A good 7-8″ in diameter. I had Japanese beetles into October, so if I had planted any dahlias, they wouldn’t have been OK.”

I, of course, get the last word because I’m writing this. I did not get much hail this summer. (Stand back, gods of weather! That was not an invitation!) But my dahlias came late and were strangely unsatisfactory. So, in my case, less gaudy plants came to the fore. My Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’ (a Joe-Pye Weed variety) made a very languid debut at the end of August. It is tall, dark-leaved, full and smothered in small white blossoms, each under the supervision of of a cluster of bees. It’s a beauty. I also think the cool wet spring was actually a boon to my bee balms (Monarda ‘Pink Lace’) and by the time they put on their show in late July, they were twice the size of the previous summer and gorgeous pink/purple, double decker dazzlers that lasted until frost. And my nominee for best mid-summer allium is Allium ‘Windy City’.

If you are interested in any of these plants, ask their owners where they bought them. I have found the Chocolate Eupatorium at Echters two years in a row. The monardas and allium, I think, came from City Floral. Many varieties of alliums can be found at the DBG bulb sale and through any of the hundreds of bulb catalogs that file through my mailbox every fall.