Ten New Perennials for Your Spring 2015 Garden

March is a great time to peruse plant catalogs and choose new perennials to add pizzazz to the spring garden. Every year I wish that I had more plants for this delightful season!  Here are ten intriguing plants for our Zone 5-6 spring gardens:


1. Hellebore ‘Peppermint Ice’

This hellebore’s fluffy, double flowers are a gentle pink with a darker pink picotee edge delicately veined in varying degrees of peppermint. Dark pink backs are revealed as the cup shaped flowers gracefully hang down, and the color holds even after the flowers set seed. Evergreen and deer resistant.

12-14 inches tall, full to part shade, blooms from late winter to spring   From Burpee (burpee.com)

2. Primrose ‘Bartl’

A native of the Alps, this cultivar of P. auricula is a lovely and fragrant addition to any spring garden. ‘Bartl' primrose features dainty soft purple and white blooms above a rosette of evergreen foliage. Tuck it into the rock garden, grow it on the patio, or plant whole rows into trough planters.

8-12 inches tall, part sun, blooms mid to late spring  From Wayside Gardens (waysidegardens.com)

3. Dicentra  'Love Hearts'

Compact and exceptionally long-blooming, 'Love Hearts' is a splendid new Bleeding Heart for the shade garden. Its white, heart-shaped flowers are accented with purple, and are carried above ferny blue-green foliage.

10-12 inches high, part shade, blooms spring through summer  From Wayside Gardens (waysidegardens.com)

4. Trillium freemanii 'Cairns' (Freeman's Toadshade)

Freeman’s Toadshade is a native Trillium discovered near the remote north Alabama town of Cairns (Morgan County) at 900' elevation. The leaves are nicely patterned silver and green and the violet purple petals range from narrow to wide.

8” tall, light shade to shade, blooms in spring  From Plant Delights Nursery (plantdelights.com)


5. Iberis ‘Sweetheart’

A pink form of spring-blooming Candytuft. Sweet pink flowers mature to lilac and blanket neat cushions of dark green foliage. The foliage remains attractive year round. Iberis is perfect for cascading over rock walls or edging. After flowering, lightly shear the plants to keep them neat and bushy.

6 inches tall, full sun, pin/lavender  From Bluestone Perennials (bluestoneperennials.com)

6. Heuchera ‘Glitter’

Coral Bell bling! Polished silver foliage glistens on tidy mounds. Contrasting black veins radiate pleasing patterns against mirror-like leaves. Bouquet-like sprays of fuchsia pink flowers dance above glamorous foliage.

10 inches tall, full sun to part shade  From Bluestone Perennials (bluestoneperennials.com)

7. Iris Germanica ‘Color Strokes’

Capture the blazing glory of sunrise with this sensational tall bearded iris! The golden center mimics the sun, streaking out into cloud-white standards and burgundy falls. The impressive stems exhibit strong three-way branching and produce as many as 7 buds! An iris that is intensely showy and dramatic, both in the garden and in the vase.

30 inches tall, full sun, blooms mid to late spring  From Wayside Gardens (waysidegardens.com)

8. Geranium 'Sweet Heidy'

Another beautiful hardy geranium for the garden! This geranium has a wide open habit, 14" tall x 18" wide, and large blue-lavender flowers with a distinctive white central pattern that contrasts nicely with the dark stamens.

14 inches tall, sun to part sun, blooms from late spring until fall  From Plant Delights Nursery (plantdelights.com)

9. Clematis ‘Neva’

Lovely, compact and long-blooming, Clematis Neva is well suited to growing in containers or at the front of the border. Allow it to spill over a low wall or scramble among the perennials!

3-4 feet tall, full sun to part shade, blooms spring and summer   From Brushwood Nursery (gardenvines.com)

10. Clematis ‘Marta’

Rich pink to light red flowers can bloom on this excellent hybrid for 5 month of the year. Very free flowering!

4-6 feet tall, full sun to part shade, blooms spring and summer  From Brushwood Nursery (gardenvines.com)

 I hope this list inspires you to add a few new varieties to your spring garden!

Five-Plant Gardens

I recently came across a book in the library called Five-Plant Gardens by Nancy  J. Ondra, which features 52 ways to grow a perennial garden with just five plants. I was intrigued by the topic – it reminded me of the “5-Ingredient Recipes” cookbook that my sister-in-law swears by. The book was beautifully designed and illustrated, so I just had to bring it home for a closer look.


Nancy Ondra wrote this guide to simple gardening primarily for novice gardeners. As she states in her introduction, “..when you’re new to the process, starting with a manageable-sized space, a clear shopping list, and a simple-to-follow planting plan can make the difference between inspiring success and frustrating disappointment.” I think her five-plant strategy is great for gardeners of any experience level, and may even be very beneficial for those seasoned gardeners who are looking to scale back and simplify their complex, time consuming gardens.

The “Five-Plant Gardens” concept is a great organizing and editing tool. (And by “gardens”, I mean a garden bed, or a small plot, not the entire property.) After gardening on my own property for 22 years, studying landscape design and visiting hundreds of gardens, I can attest to “less is more.” Less variety and more of each type of plant, that is. Not the collector’s approach of “one of this and one of that”, but large masses of the same plant, which create a stronger statement in the landscape. It can be very hard to do, and requires steely self-control, (not to mention a special “collector’s bed” where you can house your impulse purchases), but the result can be very satisfying. And with a small variety of plants, the maintenance is much easier.

I have a “five-plant garden” that I installed 20 years ago, and it still pleases me after all these years. It is a shaded circular bed in the loop of my driveway, with a gazing globe as its focal point. The five perennials are hellebores, astilbes, cinnamon ferns, hostas, and fringed bleeding hearts – low maintenance shade plants that provide four-season interest.

Every month has its own highlight:

Hellebore foliage in winter gives way to flowers in March

Hellebore foliage in winter gives way to flowers in March

Emerging fiddleheads in April

Emerging fiddleheads in April

Hosta foliage unfurls in May

Hosta foliage unfurls in May

Cinnamon fronds and bleeding hearts steal the show in June

Cinnamon fronds and bleeding hearts steal the show in June

Astilbe blossoms explode in July

Astilbe blossoms explode in July

Hosta blooms stand out in August, and the changing colors of fall foliage provide interest from September through November.

I’m going to break the five-plant rule by adding snowdrops for February appeal. Since they are early bulbs that completely disappear, perhaps they won’t count?