While attending a marriage seminar on communication, Tom and his wife Peg listened to the instructor declare, "It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other." He asked Tom, "Can you describe your wife's favorite flower?" Tom leaned over, touched his wife's arm gently and whispered, "Pillsbury All-Purpose, isn't it?" The rest of the story is not pleasant. —Author unknown

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Happy New Year, 2012 Plants!

Auld acquaintance won’t be forgotten (I still love you, ‘Rozanne’ geranium!), but it’s so exciting to learn about the new plants being released in 2012. Thanks to companies like Proven Winners, Terra Nova, Ball Horticulture and many others, I’ve already tried some in my own yard. Others I’m still drooling over in a bad case of plant-lust.

As I get information about them this winter, I’ll post the new releases so you can enjoy them, too. Today’s installment is via Great Garden Plants, plant brokers from Michigan (www.greatgardenplants.com). The breeding work of the effervescent Chris Hansen is just beginning—wait till you see his new sedum—and he and partner Mary Walters sell the plants from other breeders, too.

Here’s what they’ve got on tap for next year (All photos courtesy of Great Garden Plants):

Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising'

Coreopsis is one of those amazing perennials that seems to bloom all summer, especially with diligent deadheading. However, most are in that not-so-wide color range between very pale yellow and dark yellow. Now, from hybridizer Darrell Probst comes the Big Bang series of coreopsis in exciting new colors. I’m heating up just thinking about ‘Mercury Rising’, with large (1 1/2- to 2-inch!) velvet-red blooms that don’t need deadheading because the plant is a sterile hybrid that doesn’t need to form seeds.  It’s 18 inches tall, 24 inches wide, and has disease resistant foliage. Plant it in full sun in soil with good drainage. Hardy to Zone 5 and maybe Zone 4

Echinacea Double Scoop 'Orangeberry'

Coneflowers used to come in just a couple of flavors: Purple, and faded purple-pink. But lately we’ve come to expect this Midwest native to be dressed in fancy frou-frou, and Double Scoop ‘Orangeberry’ from Darwin Perennials is no exception. With its double-petals in orange and raspberry, it reminds Mary of “Joy, tropical fruit, energy!” Another very long-blooming perennial, this is just one of several in the Double Scoop line to look for. It grows 28-30 inches by 16-22 inches and is hardy to Zone 4.

Daylily 'Night Embers'

I’m a sucker for a great plant name, and I must say, ‘Night Embers’ sounds perfect for this darkly glowing daylily. Fragrant, cherry-red petals with a hint of cocoa in them are ruffled, but the biggest payoff is that it is a rebloomer! 24-36 inches tall and wide when mature. Zone 3

Arundo donax 'Peppermint Stick'

I’m putting this one in kind of reluctantly, but probably somebody will gasp with excitement when they see this bamboo-like reed grass that grows in full sun up to 12 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Mary claims its underground rhizomes are slow to spread, so it’s not a thug. Its green-and-white variegation stands up to heat and humidity, and ‘Peppermint Stick’ can take winters in Zone 5.

Helleborus Fluffy Ruffles

I just like saying it, over and over: Fluffy Ruffles! Fluffy Ruffles! Do they have ridges? These gorgeous hellebores are from Chris’ own breeding program. I adore hellebores. They flourish in shade to partial shade, they’re extremely tough and vigorous when established, they bloom in spring, but best of all, they are deer resistant! In my yard, they are a perfect 10! If you want to learn how to grow them from an expert, follow this link to watch Chris’ informative video. Fluffy Ruffles are doubles that come in a variety of colors. I don’t know that you’ll see the entire range shown in this photo, but you might! They form clumps 20 by 24 inches. Zone 4

Heucherella 'Solar Eclipse'

From the amazing breeders at Terra Nova Nurseries comes ‘Solar Eclipse’, a heucherella (cross between a heuchera and a tiarella) that looks like it’s at the peak of an eclipse. Maroon leaves are edged with lime green, forming a clump 16 inches wide, 10 inches tall. (The flowers can reach 16 inches, but you’ll grow it for the foliage.) Zone 4

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Ruby Slippers'

Click your heels together and come home to this gorgeous new compact oakleaf hydrangea. It was developed by the United States National Arboretum at its worksite at the Tennessee State University Nursery Research Center. While most oakleaf hydrangeas are large, sprawling monsters, ‘Ruby Slippers’ is a dainty 3 1/2 feet tall after 7 years. White panicles age to rosy pink, and the fall leaf color is described as crimson-maroon. Grow it in shade to partial shade. Zone 5

Rose 'Purple Splash'

Hybridizer Tom Carruth of Weeks Roses actually introduced this white-and-purple climber last year, but it’s worth calling it “new” if you didn’t see it then. It’s a repeat bloomer on canes 10 to 14 feet long. Enjoy more stripes in cooler weather. Unlike some climbers, this one has been bred for fewer thorns! Train ‘Purple Splash’ on a trellis for a vertical accent, and so you can get the blooms and their apple fragrance at nose height. Zone 5.

Rudbeckia 'Little Goldstar'

‘Little Goldstar’ is poised to become a big star in your garden. “Destined to become the new industry standard, this new Jelitto introduction is a terrific improvement over ‘Goldsturm’,” says the information from Darwin Plants. At only 14 inches tall, this dwarf black-eyed Susan looks like a wee charmer. ‘Little Goldstar’ is easy to grow, tolerant of heat and drought, and promises weeks and weeks of golden blooms. Plant it in full sun. Zone 4

Sedum 'Lime Zinger'

I saved the best for last! Chris Hansen’s sedum breeding has produced this tough, tough groundcover that tops out at 6 inches, but can spread 18 inches in just one year. It’s a good choice if you have very dry conditions and want something eye catching as an edging or container plant. Chris describes the coloring as “thumbnail-sized leaves of lime green surrounded by cherry-red picotee edges.” Plants are covered with pink blooms for several weeks in late summer. Chris considers ‘Lime Zinger’ a breakthrough among groundcover sedums for its beauty and vigor. Check out his two other sedums in the Sunsparkler line, too: ‘Cherry Tart’ and ‘Dazzleberry’. Zone 4

Full disclosure: I received a tiny plug of ‘Dazzleberry’ from Chris at this year’s meeting of the Garden Writers Association and plan to nurse it through the winter so it can go in the ground next spring! Thanks, Chris!

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