I and many in the industry believe that there are simply too many new plants introduced each year, with too few of them being proved garden worthy. Pity the poor gardener who, faced with an overwhelming choice of plants, can hardly know which are the best to choose.
With these words, famed gardener, author, and nurseryman Adrian Bloom discusses a return to tried and true plants, especially when it comes to recommendations for the beginning gardener. He then gives his short list of favorites that he feels offer the most gratification, season after season, for any gardener. I’ll admit, I find some of them just a bit boring, but that doesn’t make him any less accurate about their value.
An article in the trade journal Nursery Management promotes Bloom’s Best Perennials and Grasses, a recent Timber release, but the dilemma Bloom mentions is one that all of us face, whether we’ve been gardening for 2 months or 20 years. I chafe under many limitations not of my own making; within those, my impulse is to try as many different things as possible. So it’s difficult to accept old standbys. I want excitement—as much excitement as I, a semi-shade/shade gardener, can have, that is.
Like many other catalog browsers, my attention is instantly drawn to the word New! (there’s generally an exclamation point) preceding a plant listing. And a lot of the time (especially with bulbs), I’ll buy that new introduction. I deliberately have not kept a list of all the plants I bought and how long they’ve lasted in my garden. For good reason.
There is, however, a point at which one realizes, “Ok, maybe it would be much better if I just planted more bergenia/brunnera/aruncus/hakonechloa in that shade bed and did not add brand-new x.”
But who’s to say what will help the beginning gardener? Maybe a beginning gardener needs novelty as much as reliability. Maybe half the fun is trying and failing again and again. It has been for me.
And how much are we to believe a plant producer who tells us that there are too many new plants? In any case, Bloom’s short list includes hydrangea aborescens ‘Annabelle’ and I couldn’t agree more. It will be interesting to see what the other 249 are.