Build A Garden With Unique Plants

September 14, 2016 | Doug Oster comments

Professionals share their favorite underused plants with our readers.

Russ Bedner, owner Bedner's Farm and Greenhouse

Russ Bedner, owner Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse PHOTO BY DOUG OSTER

Meet Russ Bedner, 38-year owner of Bedner’s Farm  and Greenhouse in McDonald, PA. Bedner first suggests a shrub called Thuja plicata ‘Whipcord.’

“It looks like ropes growing out of it,” he says. It will grow 4 to 5 feet tall and wide and has a mounding habit. “You have to see it,” he says. “That’s a really unique plant.”

His next recommendation is Anemone ‘Pocahontas.’ It has double pink blossoms and is a bit smaller growing around 2 feet tall.

“It’s an awesome-looking flower,” Bedner says. “It blooms later in the season. There aren’t a lot of late-flowering perennials.” It is drought-tolerant and does well in the sun or partial shade.

When you first plant them, get them established well,” he says. “Give them water and a little TLC to start off with.”

Other recommendations from Bedner include:

Yellow Ilex ‘Drops of Gold’ – an evergreen plan that grows 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. It’s easily shaped to keep it smaller or can be used as a hedge.

Perennial euphorbia – “It’s one of my favorites,” he says. “They come in all different colors and heights; one in particular is ‘Tiny Tim.’ The flower on it is amazing. It gets a cluster of flowers that almost look like buttercups in the spring.”

Heuchera – A partial sun or shade plant. “I like ‘Palace Purple’,” he says. “It’s one of the older varieties, but the color and the veining in the leaves is very nice.”

Native options are Ratibida columnifera (Mexican hat plant) which polenators love, and Kalimeris incisa ‘Blue Star’ with asterlike flowers.

Next up…

Lori and Pete Chapon

Lori and Pete Chapon, owners of Chapon’s Greenhouse PHOTO BY DOUG OSTER

Meet Pete Chapon, owner and manager of Chapon’s Greenhouse in Baldwin, PA.

“One of my all-time favorite plants is the zebra iris (Iris pallida),” he says. “I like it for two reasons. You get a real nice flush of blooms in the spring — light purple, and the foliage is variegated. It’s not the green and white that you typically see. It’s green and gold with a large gold stripe on it.”

The nursery is brimming with mandevillas. The waxy leaves are able to endure a short drought. They also do well potted inside by a large window for the winter. Besides requiring little watering they are a favorite because they have “come out with a lot of new colors.” These are great plants for those people who travel as he does often to trade shows.

Another hard to kill plant he recommends, trailing and hybrid portulaca. They also require little water which works well for many gardeners.

Hybrid portulaca PHOTO BY DOUG OSTER

Hybrid portulaca PHOTO BY DOUG OSTER

Next up…

Tom McMeekin

Tom McMeekin, president of Quality Gardens PHOTO BY DOUG OSTER

Meet Tom McMeekin, president of Quality Gardens in Valencia, PA.

First on McMeekings list to share is Buttombrush a native shrub. It loves the sun, easy to grow, and adaptable.

“There’s a new variety called ‘Sugar Shack’ that gets to be about 3 feet tall and across,” he says. “It has those very nice Sputnik-like flowers that occur later in the summer. They are white and fade to pink.”

A couple of other favorites are Abelia ‘Ruby Anniversary’ and ‘Sweet Emotion.’

“They bloom in late spring with a nice rosy, white flower. This plant needs rich, loamy soil to thrive. The better you treat it, the better it will treat you,” he says smiling.

“If I were to pick one out of all of them, it’s sweetshrub Calycanthus (floridus); the variety specifically is called ‘Aphrodite.’ No one’s heard of it.” Which is like a small magnolia with flowers he thinks smell like “heaven.”

Rose of Sharon 'China Chiffon' PHOTO BY DOUG OSTER

Rose of Sharon ‘China Chiffon’ PHOTO BY DOUG OSTER

McMeekin makes a good case for rose of Sharon. He likes the Chiffon series which are available in a variety of colors.

“There’s some wonderful new varieties. The colors are spectacular, the flower form being doubles now — very nice,” McMeekin says. “The newer varieties carry forward all of the better characteristics,” he says. “The growing in tough places, resistance to any kind of fungal problems — they don’t seem to be particularly bothered by any insects. They are just a very tough shrub. I think they are worthy of a second look.”

And for shrubs? Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’ and ‘Little Henry.’

“They are one of my favorite underused shrubs,” he says.