What’s new and what’s growing next

By Lynette Walther | Dec 21, 2019
Photo by: Lynette L. Walther Blue can also show up as garden ornaments, like these lively, Maine-made fish in the garden.

Time to turn the page on our gardens, and look to a new year of choices and opportunities. Seed catalogs are already arriving with decisions to be made. We had a great growing season and lots to be thankful for in the garden this past year. Plenty of rain and cool temperatures early in the season may have stalled our plans for a time, but once the summer warmth set in, we and our gardens were off and running. That extra shot of moisture set the landscapes up for new additions and gave existing plants a leg up.

As we take stock of our last growing season, we note that those things that proved to be successful will merit a return, while those that led to disappointment will be avoided. New varieties, many with improved performance and stamina, will be tempting additions to our growing repertoire. A good garden journal, kept up to date with varieties noted and weather conditions is one of our best guides taking this journey to fruition.

Every year presents a new palette of weather that can make or break our carefully-laid plans. Plant choices, timing and more are usually weather-dependent.

Taking a look at our crystal ball, we consult with the Old Farmer’s Almanac for a hint of what sort of weather to expect next spring and summer: “April and May will have above-normal temperatures, with below-normal rainfall. Summer temperatures will be hotter than normal, with the hottest periods in mid-June, mid-to-late July, and early August. Rainfall will be below normal in the north and above normal in the south. September and October will be warmer and rainier than normal, with a tropical storm threat in mid-October.”

Given that prediction, perhaps this will be the year we try a bit more lavender (named perennial of the year for 2020 by the National Garden Bureau) in the sunny border, or try eggplants and sweet peppers once again in the vegetable patch — all plants that thrive on heat and low humidity. And 2020 has been named The Year of the Corn, and new varieties make for tempting vegetable garden additions like ‘Sweet Affection,’ ‘Sweet Catalyst XR’ and ‘Sweet Signature XR.’ Or we might seek out heat and drought-tolerant varieties to sample.

Among the trends predicted for the coming year is the color blue, from deep-sea blue to indigo to powderpuff pale. A deep, rich “classic blue” is the Color of the Year for 2020, named by both Pantone and Sherwin Williams as well. “Classic blue brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge,” according to Pantone. I’ll vote for that one!

When it comes to flowers, my favorite blues are found in flowering plants like Salvia nemorosa, with the Color Spires group of salvias, like ’Crystal Blue,’ ‘Indigo Girl’ and ‘Blue Suede Shoes.’ Also the annual Mealycup salvias offer up a sea of blues with the ‘So Blue’ and ‘Playin’ the Blues.’

True blues in the vein of indigo blue are the false indigos — Baptisias. ‘Blueberry Sundae’ and ‘Sparkling Saphires’ deliver the blues with wild abandon and hardiness for our growing conditions. Both the Salvias and Baptisias require full sun (direct, unfiltered sun for at least six hours a day). The Baptisias are early to bloom in late spring, salvias in mid-summer and for late-season blues, look to ‘Blue Chiffon’ rose of Sharon, a tough-as-nails flowering shrub that produces profusions of fluffy, powder-blue double blooms in late summer.

Don’t stop with the flowers, consider deep blue garden accents in a new coat of paint for garden furniture or colorful glazed blue or blue and white pottery.

As always we will expect the best, but prepare for the worst conditions if we are to achieve success in our gardens — no matter the task.

Lynette L. Walther is the 2019 GardenComm Gold Medal winner for writing and a four-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Metal of Achievement, the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. Her gardens are in Camden.

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