Last month, an industry magazine ran a list of the plants it considered the Top Ten Most Influential Varieties.
Collective shrug. (And I am not sure “most” is needed.) Lists like these may not mean much to home gardeners, who often aren’t as concerned with long-term viability, and don’t have commercial landscapes to install and maintain. On the other hand, they can reflect choice limitations, especially if you don’t live where there are a lot of IGCs or locally run nurseries.
Most of the plants here are now ubiquitous and, in many cases, rightly so. It’s hard to argue with Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ or Heuchera ‘Palace Purple.’ I don’t have and wouldn’t have either of them (having failed with heuchera many times and not enjoying the yellow of ‘Goldsturm’), but I do use Wave petunias and Impomea ‘Margarita’—also on the list—some summers in pots.
Other choices seem unpleasantly enforced. Just like high fructose corn syrup in processed food, they tend to appear in almost every public planting—Knock Out roses, ‘Stella d’Oro’ daylilies, and Endless Summer hydrangeas. Also just like the syrup, they fill up their designated areas, but in an ultimately unsatisfying way. The Knock Outs have nothing I value in a rose, or even in a plant, except for their copious foliage. No scent, no form, bad color. I would say the same for the stubby SdO daylilies and the Endless Summers. True, one wouldn’t expect scent from either but in every other respect, they’re inferior to the older hybrids found in either of their species. Owners of Endless Summers always ask what I “do” to my macrophylla hydrangeas to get their deep colors and fleshy blooms—the answer is that I don’t buy Endless Summers.
So why not just ignore the silly list? Because it is an industry list and contains just three native plant (hybrids of ), amid a bunch of others whose main attributes are that they are commonly used for public plantings. Lists are big in our culture; we like to narrow things down and rank things. It’s not a very fulfilling or interesting way to put together a garden. Which is why you’ll very seldom hear gardeners talk about how popular their plants are. And it’s why I tend to put my bulb orders together based largely on the varieties I’ve never heard of or never planted before.