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Plant of the Century

As part of the 100th anniversary of the Chelsea Flower Show in England this year, the Royal Horticulture Society nominated 10 plants to vie for Plant of the Century, one introduction for each decade.

Geranium ‘Rozanne’, a perennial cranesbill introduced by Blooms of Bressingham won the contest.

Bressingham Gardens in Norfolkshire in England is one of the world’s premiere nurseries. Alan and Adrian Bloom, father and son, have introduced many wonderful plants over the past half century. Their nursery is a must see in England. ‘Rozanne’ is a long-blooming, blue-flowered perennial geranium that is popular in the United States. ‘Rozanne’ is named for Rozanne Waterer, the gardener in Kilve, Somerset, England who discovered it in her garden in 1989 and asked the Blooms to introduce it. First shown at Chelsea in 2000, it was introduced to the United States in 2001 and was named perennial plant of the year by the Perennial Plant Association in 2008.

It is touted to grow well from Canada to California in most any soil. I just wish it did better in my garden, although I do like it. Perhaps it needs afternoon shade. A friend in South Amherst reported that it didn’t thrive in her garden either. The mounding, sprawling plant with violet-blue flowers usually blooms all summer, which wasn’t true of the old ‘Johnson’s Blue’ or even ‘Brookside’ both of which I have grown in the past.

The other nominees were: varieties of saxifrage and pieris, lupine Russell Hybrids, Rhododendron yakoshimanum, ‘Iceberg’ rose, Cornus ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ from Canada, a perennial wallflower, popular ‘Palace Purple’ heuchera, and a houseplant: Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Blue’. I think I would have voted for ‘Rozanne’ myself, even though it probably does better in England.

PLANT CLINIC: Volunteers with the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association will answer home garden questions at a plant clinic with soil testing for pH (acidity level) at the Amherst Farmers Market tomorrow and every Saturday in June from 9 a.m. to noon. Donation of $1 requested per soil sample.

FORBES TOUR: The 20th annual Northampton Garden Tour sponsored by the Friends of the Forbes Library is tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are six gardens on the tour. There is a raffle of several donated items as well. Tickets for the tour are $15 today, $20 tomorrow and are available at the library as well as Cooper’s Corner in Florence, Bay State Perennial Farm in Whately, Hadley Garden Center and State Street Fruit Store and Cornucopia Foods in Thornes Marketplace, both of which are in Northampton. The tickets include a map and garden descriptions.

EDIBLE WILD PLANTS: John Root, of Amherst, is giving several wild plants walks in the area in the next week. Tomorrow, 10-11:30 a.m., the walk is at Simple Gifts Farm, 1089 North Pleasant St., Amherst. On June 15 the walk is at Brookfield Farm, 24 Hulst Rd. in Amherst, from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Informational pamphlets will be distributed and plants will be offered for sale. Both programs are free. Call Root at 961-9059 for details.

HADLEY GARDEN CENTER: The final spring program in the Hadley Garden’s Center 50th anniversary celebration is Thursday at 6 p.m. with a walk about the nursery yard on the topic of organic herb growing. Howard Prussak of High Meadow Farms in Putney, Vt., organic growers, will discuss herbs including the perennial question: How do you overwinter rosemary? Free. 584-1423.

WHATELY TOUR: The Whately Historical Society will hold a garden hour on June 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are five gardens on the tour and one will be previewed in Valley Gardens next week. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 the day of the tour. They are available at LaSalle Florists and Bay State Perennial Farm, both in Whately. The nurseries are also offering a 10 percent discount on purchases to ticket holders on tour day. Tickets will also be available on tour-day at the Whately Historical Society, 218 Chestnut Plain, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and visitors may view the exhibits. To reserve tickets, call 665-4818.

SALVIA REPORT: In the spring I wrote that I wanted to buy several annual salvias plus the new Coreopsis ‘Mercury Rising’. Well, the coreopsis is planted in my front garden and should bloom soon. After reading my article, Peter Flynn at Bay State Perennial told me he prefers Coreopsis ‘Red Satin’ so I went out to Whately last week and bought one to try. ‘Mercury Rising’ is a hybrid of C. lanceolata with lance-shaped tapered leaves. ‘Red Satin’ is a C. verticillata with thin, fine leaves. I didn’t dare plant that next to my species C. verticillata that is almost invasive for fear they would entangle themselves. So ‘Red Satin’ is on the other side of the front walkway across from ‘Mercury Rising’. I’ll give you a full report later in the summer.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t find most of the salvias on my wish list locally, so I had almost given up when I was surprised to find Salvia ‘Madeline’ at Bay State. It turns out to be a perennial, obviously related to my favorite S. transylvanica. At least the leaves and branch structure are similar. ‘Madeline’ is supposedly hardy to Zone 4 (certainly true of transylvanica) and has blue and white bi-colored flowers. I bought it in full bloom and just hope it continues to flower for a few weeks. According to the label, if you cut it back (like S. transylvanica) it will rebloom.

So far, my only annual salvias are S. farinacea for my blue pots but I almost got a S. sinaloensis at Andrew’s Greenhouse on Sunday although I couldn’t think where to use it well. I’ll probably go back and get it and another annual later.

S. ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, the perennial about which I learned from Nick Dines in Williamsburg and was a gift from master gardeners on our Maine trip, is blooming splendidly in my white-yellow-blue garden. I like it so much better than ‘Caradonna’ for which I “settled” last year when I couldn’t find ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. The ‘Caradonna’ has thin flower spikes that are really purple while ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ is almost true blue with much thicker flower stalks.

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