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SHARING SECRETS: Discovering New Plants

Edited by Dayle Cheever.

Every now and then I find a plant I have not seen before. Recently, it was hummingbird mint (Agastache) and I bought two. Is there a plant or group of plants you've discovered that you would like to share?

Lucy Warren: I recently became aware of a deciduous tree, Davidia involucrata, in full bloom, in England. Also known as the handkerchief tree or ghost tree. Beautiful, large white bracts covered the trees.

Small pinkish flowers adorn hairy canary clover in the spring. Image courtesy of Susan Starr.

Susan Starr: I've recently planted Cordyline Festival™ Burgundy, both in pots and in the ground. Unlike many Cordyline, it doesn't develop a stem. It gets to be about three feet tall and wide. Mine had a small delicate bloom in late spring this year. In pots, I've underplanted them with florist kalanchoe and dianthus. The pink sets off the burgundy color beautifully. Another new addition to my garden is Dorycnium hirsutum, aka hairy canary clover. It's a low-water, bluish ground cover with small pinkish flowers in the spring.

James Benedetti: I would like to see more Banksia species explored. I really like these plants and you don’t see them very often. I know the Wild Animal Park (or whatever they are calling themselves now) has a great display of them on the northern trail.

Grevillea's 'strange and beautiful blossoms' add interest to any garden. Photo courtesy of Lisa Marun.

Kay Spafford: I have discovered Grevillea and I am fascinated with their strange and beautiful blossoms.

Carol Morgan: So interesting that you mention the hummingbird mint. I recently purchased two as well and am really curious to know how they do. Love the flower color. Very unusual, especially against the green-silverish foliage.

Janet Ward: This probably isn’t a new plant to many, but I have recently found it to be very useful. Convolvulus sabatius (C. mauritanicus), ground morning glory. It is drought tolerant (it has a rating of 'Low' on the WUCOLS list!), covers the ground in a mat of small deep green leaves, and then has pale purple morning glory flowers starting now till fall. In our landscape architecture office, we are using it in place of ivy geraniums, in combinations with succulents, and even in containers to spill over the edges. It does not seem to take over like a morning glory vine can. It really is great when you need a low water using plant to cover the ground and have a bonus of flower color!

Scott Sandel: I have a monthly secret. For years, I have admired the dwarf forms of the seemingly carefree Euphorbia millii. Recently, I have seen smaller-flowered forms, larger flowered forms, and a few different colors out on the market. Yet my favorite hybrid remains the local ‘Jerry’s Choice’; it just seems to outperform the other ones. 'Jerry’s Choice' is named after Jerry Hunter, deceased landscape architect and longtime owner of Rancho Soledad Nursery. This hybrid is seemingly ever-blooming, with fire engine red flowers on a compact mound. My aesthetic preference is to mass them in groups for maximized effect. It doesn’t seem right to sprinkle that bold red color around willy-nilly.

Sue Fouquette: This is not a new plant to us. We’ve seen it as a big 'weed' on freeway slopes. We’ve had one in our backyard for years. It’s cardoon, Cynara cardunculus. It has many, many beautiful purple thistle-like blooms on it now. I cut a couple for a bouquet for my friend I was meeting at Starbucks. As I got it out of the car, people started admiring it. Almost everyone walking by our outside table stopped to ask about it. It’s related to artichoke, but you don’t eat the choke. We’ve tried eating the edible huge leaf midribs, but it’s not worth the trouble. The plant is taller than me and (thank goodness) wider than me. Bees and ants like it.

Susan LaFreniere: Over the last year, I have fallen in love with Grevillea and other Proteaceae. My husband found big, beautiful bouquets at the Temecula Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, at the Resendiz Brothers stand. I began to follow them on Facebook, and their website has a wealth of information for a novice. Last month, I visited Robyn at Ausachica Nursery and bought Grevillea ‘Peaches and Cream’ and two pincushions. Susan Rojas, who designed our garden, specializes in Australian plants. They look like nothing else and last for a long time in a bouquet.

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