We at GGW decided that it was time to add another monthly topic to our blog. So, the idea of the ‘GGW Plant Pick of the Month’ was born. Each month, on the 10th, I will select a plant to be our pick of the month. I’ll explain why I’ve chosen it, what I like about it and perhaps how I’ve used it in my garden. Then, it will be up to you, dear bloggers, to respond. You can post about any cultivar that you love, new ideas on how to use it, or just about anything else that has something to do with this plant. In other words, you can take it and run in any direction that grabs you. Like what Nan has done with The Garden Design Workshop, at the end of that month’s cycle (which will be on the 9th), a summary will be written with links to those folks who have posted, along with photos.
So, on that note, a drum roll please! GGW’s Plant Pick of the Month for August 2008 is HEUCHERA!!
The only way that I can describe heuchera is that it is similar to the ‘little black dress’ for women (sorry guys!) Or perhaps, could it be the navy blazer for you fellows? It is just one of those perennials that can be used safely on practically any occasion: sun, partial shade (shade in a moist location), in vignettes with pastels, in contrast with sharp, bright leaved or deep hued plants and on formal or casual occasions.
Of this genus of 55 species of evergreen and semi-evergreen perennials, the majority are indigenous to North America woodlands and rocky sites, mostly the Rocky Mountains, with a few from Mexico. They are clump forming mounds, usually used for their leaf colors and often variegated with veins running through them. I find the flowers to be inconsequential unless planted en masse.
I was first introduced to Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’ when Chris Woods ripped out what was then my front yard and redesigned it with native perennials and deciduous shrubs. He used Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’ with Geranium psilostemon, which I absolutely loved. What initially struck me was its deep burgundy, almost blackish leaves: over the years they became overlapping and lush. Its color catapulted me in using this deep hue throughout my garden as a base color.
Another burgundy leaved heuchera to which I was recently introduced by Alan Russell of Russell’s Wholesale Nursery is Heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’, an introduction from Terra Nova. It is described on the back of the tag as “hot pink polka dots adorn this vigorous growing ‘Obsidian’ sport. Pink flecks emerge in spring and continue to enlarge and brighten before lightening to cream as the season progresses. Bold, black and beautiful for sunny locations”. I am experimenting with it in an area of my front border that I just replanted, along with pennisetum, cabbage, a pink agastache and Salvia nemerosa. For more information, click on: www.terranovanurseries.com.
This spring at Chanticleer I noted that in the formal garden behind the main house (which is Dan Benarcik’s domain), another heuchera was planted as the centerpiece in a formal arrangement. I am not familiar with which one it is: perhaps Dan will clue us in.
Some of the newer introductions are the caramel and chartreuse/yellow colored leaved heucheras. I recenty bought some lime plants to try in different areas of my garden. Alan Russell has labeled this one as Heuchera x villosa ‘Citronelle’ and describes it as a native, evergreen lime/yellow leaved perennial with mounds to 24″ across. He says that it does well in partial shade in average soil.
And finally, a close up of Heuchera villosa ‘Appalachian Mountains’ which magnifies the subtle beauty of this plant with its multi-lobed, soft hairy leaves. It works beautifully in a woodland, native garden.