In this post, we will take a look at the breeding work of Brent Horvath of Intrinsic Perennial Gardens in Hebron, Illinois. His most popular introduction so far include Polemonium 'Heaven Scent', a personal favourite of mine, with early, grape-scented purple flowers and dark spring foliage. It was derived from crossing the native (most of north-eastern North America) P. reptans with P. yezoense 'Purple Rain'.
Another popular introduction of Brent's is Sedum 'Lajos' Autumn Charm™, a wonderfully variegated (sport of the popular 'Autumn Joy') form of Showy Stonecrop. While I have become somewhat jaded with variegated Sedums, due to their relative instability, this one appears to be the "most stable", and is otherwise very colourful.
One of Brent's plants that has been out for a few years, that I am very impressed with but have yet to grow is Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Red Head' (below). Compared with the "flowers" of other forms of Fountain Grass, this one is simply outstanding.
In Brent's pipeline are several more exciting new perennials. The following have been released in the last year or two, or will be released by his nursery in 2010. Keep in mind that an introduction to the industry, typically takes a few more years to reach "mass production".
One that is almost shockingly beautiful is Andropogon gerardii 'Red Bull', a selection of the native (most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains) Big Bluestem or Turkey Foot Grass, which is described as the "monarch of the prairie grasses". In any case, it is a beautiful, upright grass that is easy to grow in full sun, with lush summer foliage, that in the case of 'Red Bull', turns a brilliant red in the autumn.
Another beauty is Geum 'Mai Tai' with lovely peachy-apricot flowers on dark stems.
Last but not least is Penstemon digitalis 'Precious Gem', a brand new selection of the native (most of eastern North America) with foliage that emerges bronze and turns green by summer, and with plenteous pink flowers on dark stems that persist until autumn.
Here's to dirt under your nails...