of Spring 2003
came up tops in this year's Stars of Spring
Each year a range of
plants are put to the test in Auckland and Christchurch, their habits
observed for superior growth. They are judged by a panel of plant
experts for innovation, excitement and strong performance. The following
eight passed the test and can be confidently referred
to as the Stars of Spring 2003.
Magic Wand is an extremely
versatile perennial that will grow well throughout New Zealand.
It is a newly bred variety of Heuchera which introduces outstanding
flowering features. Flower stems easily reach 70 cm in height, coming
from a rosette of thick, round, shiny leaves with crinkly edges.
An added bonus is that the long flower stems are ideal for picking.
The foliage is healthy, around 20 cm high and 40 cm wide, so the
overall effect is very striking, especially as the flowers repeat
from spring through to autumn. Although free draining, friable soils
are preferred, in a sunny or partially shaded position, they will
cope with a wide range of climatic conditions. They dislike full
shade, however. It pays to apply some controlled release fertiliser
at planting and to keep them well watered through the driest summer
weather. Trim stems to tidy the plant up when flowering is completed.
A beautiful hybrid with
a profusion of large fully double flowers that rise on grey
stems, set against long, slender green leaves. The masses of flowers
are in shades of honey, amber and burnt orange. Their ability to
stay open in low light conditions makes them ideal for positions
where they are seen both early and late in the day. Sunset Jane
has a dense growth habit, is compact and clumps to around 50cm high
and a similar spread in its first year. It is excellent for garden
borders or as a filler and its low maintenance makes it ideal for
containers on a sunny patio or deck. Full sun and a well drained
soil are ideal, but it is not a fussy plant and will grow in most
soil conditions. It doesnt seem to suffer from any pests or diseases
and requires no trimming or pruning. It is exceedingly low maintenance.
The large intense-blue
bell-shaped flowers appear from early spring. They hang in clusters,
each flower broadly serrated at the bottom. By campanula standards,
the flowers are massive, but the plant itself is small and compact.
The foliage is sparse, but with a healthy green, reminiscent of
large mint leaves. It grows in full sun but prefers light shade.
Protect from the wind for best performance. In trials, plants reached
40 cm in height and a similar width. Easy to grow with good disease
resistance, Mystic Bells will thrive with a light cut back after
flowering and it will soon repeat flower, going through to
early winter in most places. It is advisable to apply a controlled
release fertiliser in early spring.
This delightful new addition
to the Sunbells series has a dense, cascading habit. It stays close
to the ground and in the garden will block out weed growth. Dark
Cherry is covered from spring to autumn (winter in warmer sheltered
areas) with masses of rich dark cherry flowers 3cm in diameter.
Ideal for hanging baskets, troughs or as a ground cover. In
garden trials the plant easily covered 80 cm in diameter in one
growing season, being no more than 10 cm in height. Dark Cherry
has a high degree of disease resistance and copes well in reasonably
neglected situations. However they are high performance plants and
will respond well to a cut back after flowering and feeding with
a high nitrogen formula during flowering. Grow in a sunny, well
drained position, but be prepared to water through the summer to
give best results. Dark Cherry is lightly cold hardy and will
tolerate only very light frosts.
A free flowering compact
shrub that flowers virtually year round, although it has
a main flush during spring. The bell-shaped flowers form in nodding
bunches and are a rich mauve-pink with dark throats. A
low evergreen, it is excellent in rockeries, garden borders and
on patios in pots, where its clusters of flowers can be admired.
Grows 50 cm high and 60 cm wide. Tolerant of a wide range of growing
conditions, full sun to part shade (best to avoid the midday sun
during summer), it also tolerates mild frosts. It is advisable to
mulch during hot dry weather where cooler root run and lighter free
draining soils are preferred.
This neat, attractive
perennial features a unique foliage configuration that will
give it broad appeal both in existing gardens and contemporary landscapes.
The bright green leaves are triple-lobed in the shape of a crows
foot, with an outline of black feathery markings in the centre.
It has the added bonus in that during spring it is topped with spikes
of showy white flowers, flushed pink. Tiarella 'Crows Feather'
grows in most locations across the country, but will do best if
given shelter and some very light shade.Grows to 45 cm high and
wide. It is a healthy plant that will tolerate a wide range of conditions,
including full sun and semi-shade. Little maintenance is required,
but as with all foliage plants, a few light feeds with a high nitrogen
formula would be beneficial.
angustifolia 'Thumbelina Leigh'
The most striking feature
of Thumbelina Leigh is the abundance of bright blue-violet
flowers on such a small, tidy plant. The flower heads are tightly
balled, rising to about 30cm high, and fragrant. It has the ability
to flower twice and its neat, compact shape will make it invaluable
for containers, landscaping and as a true small border lavender
in the garden. When not in flower the deep green foliage is also
fragrant. It prefers hot dry conditions and free draining soils
with a pH of 6 to 7. Like most lavenders it does not enjoy wet conditions,
although northern trials saw little evidence of ill health in high
humidity. In the south it withstood frosty and windy conditions
with little or no effect on performance. It pays to prune by half
frutescens 'Summit Pink'
Summit Pink is the most floriferous
Federation Daisy to come out of NuFloras Sydney breeding programme.
It is not only the first marguerite to approach the free-flowering
nature of a garden mum (chrysanthemum), but its petals also have
the same distinctive ribbing. It flowers over an extended period
from late winter into autumn and each new flush of flowers literally
smothers the bush. Flowers are single with strong pink petals and
prominent yellow centres, approximately 4-5 cm in diameter. The
bush grows rapidly, to around 50cm, with finely divided bright green
foliage. Best grown in full sun and a well drained soil, it is very
low maintenance. Feed at the beginning of spring and the odd trim
to shape during the year will keep it tidy and invigorate new foliage
and flowers. There is little need for dead-heading. Will grow well
throughout New Zealand, but is tolerant of only very light frosts
for short periods.