Over Mother’s Day weekend, my mother told me it reached 86°F in Tonawanda, N.Y. The same day in Portland, Ore., we hit 81°F. Usually Mother’s Day weekend is cold, wet and rainy on both East and West coasts. When my mother mentions that they are in a drought situation after a blistering winter, I take notice. Plants nationwide are responding to these changing temperatures with earlier bloom times than ever. Mature lilacs in the Portland area were finished blooming at the end of April. In the Pacific Northwest, they generally are still in full glory through Mother’s Day. My rain barrel that usually lasts through the end of July is 90 percent used.
In 2014, Ball Horticultural Co. surveyed landscape tradesmen, and more than 64% reported their customers are asking for lower maintenance landscapes with 57% asking about drought tolerance. In their perennial grower survey, more than 74% of their customer base is looking for native plant species with water-wise and drought-tolerant qualities.
We need to be forward thinking and listen to our customers.
By working together, our industry can create beautiful water-wise gardens and increase future revenue streams at the same time. To assist growers in meeting the demands of retailers, landscape professionals and ultimately gardeners nationwide, here are tried and true alongside new plant introductions to consider adding to your inventory portfolio for 2016 and beyond.
Agastache ‘Kudos Yellow’
Not only is this drought tolerant, it is deer resistant and a magnet for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. Perfect for mixed borders. Hardiness: Zones 5-10 Mature Size: 24 inches high and wide Blooms: Summer through fall Flower color: Yellow Landscape uses: Perennial borders, container plant www.terranovanurseries.com
Allium Lavender Lollipop
Drought tolerant and pollinator friendly. Hardiness: Zones 4-9 Mature Size: 15-18 inches high Blooms: Late summer Flower color: Purple Landscape uses: Provides a pop of color in a mixed perennial and shrub border. http://hgtvhomeplants.com
Delosperma Jewel of Desert Garnet
Rich red outer petals fade into bright magenta hubs around yellow stamens. Hardiness: Zones 5-10 Mature size: 4-6 inches high Blooms: Late spring to fall Flower color: Multicolored Landscape uses: Rock gardens. Pairs well with Euphorbia myrsinites in containers for a stunning spring show. www.ecgrowers.com
Hypericum Sunny Boulevard
Bright, pollinator attracting flowers are followed by attractive red berries. Hardiness: Zones 4-8 Mature Size: 24 inches high by 36 inches wide Blooms: Summer Flower color: Bright yellow Landscape uses: Perennial borders www.fisherfarms.com; www.provenwinners.com
Baby Blue rabbitbrush
Also known as dwarf blue rabbitbrush, this late blooming dryland shrub native has multiple season interest. It is deer resistant, sweetly fragrant and provides a source of nectar for native bee populations. Found in isolated areas in the Colorado Front Range, it is grown in select nurseries in the Western states. Hardiness: Zones 4-9 Mature Size: 16-24 inches high by 20-30 inches wide Blooms: Late summer through fall Flower color: Golden Landscape uses: Wildscaping http://plantselect.org
Caryopteris × clandonensis ‘Dark Knight’
Bluebeards attract pollinators to their flowers and aromatic foliage. Shrubs can be trimmed into a deciduous flowering hedging plant. Hardiness: Zones 5-9 Mature Size: 2-3 feet high and wide Blooms: Late summer to fall Flower color: Deep purple-blue Landscape uses: Perennial or shrub borders Retailer tip: Drought tolerant plants are easy to spot in a retail garden setting when grouped together in a display showcasing shades of green, gray and glaucous blue foliage mixed together. www.littleprinceoforegon.com
Geauga Gray Dogwood
A fast-growing hedge that can be pruned for a more formal look. A tough ‘nativar’ that thrives in the harshest conditions with the ability to tolerate dry, wet and poor soils. Multi-seasonal interest with changing foliage, flowers and white berries. Part of the American Beauties Native Plants Program. Hardiness: Zone 4 Mature Size: 6-8 feet high by 4 feet wide Foliage: Mahogany-red new growth followed by glossy black-green leaves Blooms: Spring Flower color: Creamy-white Landscape uses: Hedging or specimen planting www.upshoot.com; www.lakecountynursery.com
'Persian Spire' Upright Ironwood
Leaves emerge with a strong purple cast morph into a purple halo margin followed by dark emerald green foliage in summer. Provides a long-lasting, elaborate autumn color display of ever-changing yellow, orange, burgundy and red hues. Hardiness: Zone 5 Mature Size: 25 feet high by 10 feet wide Landscape uses: Specimen tree, containers Landscape design tip: In a container, mixes well with Scallywag holly, Nepeta faassenii ‘Blue Ice’ and Hebe ‘Red Edge.’ www.jlpnliners.com
Russian Sage ‘Denim ‘n Lace’
Tightly spaced colorful calyxes make ‘Denim ‘n Lace’ look like it is still in bloom even when it is past peak. ‘Denim ‘n Lace’ loves full sun, tolerates low to average moisture levels, is deer resistant and attracts hummingbirds. Hardiness: Zones 4-9 Mature Size: 28-32 inches high by 34-38 inches wide Flower color: Bright sky blue Landscape uses: Mixed shrub and perennial borders Retailer and florist tip: Makes a good cut flower with foliage and flowers that can be easily dried. www.waltersgardens.com
Black Tower Elderberry
Narrow upright shrub/small tree with dark burgundy foliage. Big blooms all summer are followed by black berries in fall. The foliage covers the plant right to the base resulting in no bare stems at the base. Hardiness: Zones 3-9 Mature Size: 6-8 feet high by 3-4 feet wide Blooms: Summer Flower color: Dark pink Landscape uses: Hedge, mixed borders, container, specimen Landscape design tip: Mix with Sedum makinoi ‘Ogon’ or Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ at the base for a stunning combination in the ground or in a container. www.ballhort.com
Dawn Hummel is president of BeeDazzled Media and a 20-year veteran in the horticulture industry. For more information: email@example.com
Photos courtesy of growers unless otherwise specified.