February 19, 2012

Maine Gardener: Garish, chancy, new ... bring it on, Avent says


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“Peppermint Twist” phlox

Courtesy photos

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“Hot Papaya” echinacea

Additional Photos Below

Phlox paniculata "Jeana" is another one with "zilch mildew with lavender pink blossoms on a 4-foot plant." Avent said it was growing in a field of different phlox, and "all the butterflies come to this one. It blooms all summer long."

He said "Peppermint Twist" with pink and white blooms is the type of gaudy plant he loves, and that "Triple Play" goes a step beyond the other phlox because it has variegated foliage.

An import for which Avent has recently developed a fondness is Asparagus cochinchinensis, a fern that -- if you have both male and female plants -- produces great berries on 5-foot-tall plants and turns as yellow as amsonia in the fall.

He also recommended some good peonies. Paeonia ostii is a wild species peony from China that grows from seed, gets 5 feet tall, and produces 150 flowers a year. "It should be in every single garden," he said.

"Bartzella" is an intersectional peony, standing about 3 feet tall with light-yellow flowers.

"Intersectional peonies result when herbaceous peonies are forced to have sex with tree peonies," Avent said. "The flower heads are 10 inches across. They have the sturdiness of a tree peony, but they die back to the ground in the winter."

Avent said when "Bartzella" was introduced, it cost $260 a plant, but the price has now dropped to $75, a relative bargain.

Aralia cordata is a 7-foot-tall plant that does well in semi-shade and produces 2-foot tall flower spikes. It has bright-gold foliage, and does well in sun to light shade. 

Another one of Avent's gaudy plants is Delosperma "Fire Spinner," a new introduction that has eye-like flowers or bright-orange flowers that morph to magenta.

Avent said the longest blooming perennial in his garden is Tricytris ravenii, called toad lily, going from June to frost, with speckled blue flowers on a 3-foot plant. It grows in light shade.

These are less than a third of the plants on Avent's list of 100 plants, but they are some of my favorites. You can see a lot more of the offerings at plantdelights.com.

The website has a lot of offerings that would not be hardy in Maine -- although all of the ones Avent mentioned in his talk would have been hardy in at least part of Maine. But the plant photos are great, as are Avent's plant descriptions.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:



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Additional Photos

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Clematis ochroleuca

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“Bartzella” peony


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