April 12, 2009

First Annual Muddy Boot Awards. The Top Ten Must-Have Plants

1.PARDANCANDA ‘Heart of Darkness’ or ‘Bountiful Blush

A plant that has been on my wish list for two years now is these extraordinary Pardancanda varieties available from Joe Pye Weed Gardens in Carlisle, Massachusetts. These particular varieties are extraordinary and only available from Joe Pye Weed for now, since they received them from another local Nurseryman, Daryl Probst (of Epimedium fame), who is shifting his focus from Epimediums to breeding programs of other ignored genera.On my last visit to his Nursery, he showed me amazing Asters and Lobelia. Joe Pie Weed owners Jan Sacks and Marty Schaefer are friends with Daryl, and have introduced these amazing Pardancanda’s which are not only hardy to Zone 5, but that form plants that can create clouds of over 300 flowers. Go to their website and check them out.Some interesting notes on Pardancandas, they now have been reclassified as Iris. According to the Joe Pye Weed website, “The changes we have been expecting in the taxonomy of Pardancandas have been made – they are now 100% irises! The new
name is Iris x norrisii. These are hybrids between Iris dichotoma (formerly
Pardanthopsis dichotoma or The Vesper Iris) and Iris domestica(formerly
Belamcanda chinensis or The Blackberry Lily)”. As for culture, they say: “These plants are quite different in appearance from most irises. Nevertheless, they have rhizomes and leaf fans and flowers in three parts. They like lots of sun, resent wet soil, and need regular dividing. They are drought tolerant and do not mind the extreme heat of the south.
Their growing needs are very similar to bearded irises. “ The flowers are small, open for only one day, and they are produced in profusion. The tall strong stalks can have as many as 45 spathes (bud placements), with 6 to 10 buds in each of these. Many of these hybrids can display over 300 flowers at once.


A HORSETAIL? Oh yeah, baby. Thanks to botanist Chad Husby of Florida International University, and his discovery in Chile, and the well known Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina, we all can have this beast in our garden. Go Jurassic Park! This might be best as a container plant for me, but come on…..how can any gardener resist a ten-foot tall giant horsetail? Well, thanks to Chad, Plant Delights Nursery (perhaps my favorite nursery for plant quality, size and service), are able to offer the true giant Equisetum giganteum for the first time.

Photo courtesy of Chad Husby ©2009
Chad Husby with a colony of Equisetum giganteum
(valley of the Río Lluta, northern Chile, January 2006)

According to them “This collection of the rare fern relative hails from El Tabacal in Argentina's northern province of Salta, where it forms large stands of 10'+ tall prehistoric-looking stalks. Imagine a giant green stake being plugged into an electrical outlet and you get the idea. Equisetum giganteum runs...no, it gallops, so do not plant it in the ground in warm climates. In containers, seal the drainage holes if escaping into the ground is possible. E. giganteum is superb in a large container or submerged in a solid bottom ornamental pond. Of several accessions trialed, this is the only one that survived 15 degrees F in the ground”Plant Delights is currently sold out, but reportedly will have more plants available soon. (I ordered mine in January, and it arrived this week (I had to keep it as secret as I could!).


I’ve wanted an Edgeworthia for years now, ever since seeing one in full bloom in Tokyo during a February trip there. This Zone 8 Shrub would need to be a potted cold greenhouse shrub for me, but that’s OK. White forms of E. papyrifera can be found at a couple of nurseries on line, but this cultivar is even rarer, because it is a rarer red form. It is currently sold out (as many of these must-have plants are), but if they were easy to obtain, they wouldn’t be very ‘must-have’, now, would they?
Very limited, this plant is always in demand but is so tricky to propagate, so very few nurseries will make the effort. The red (tomato soup) flowers appear in clusters just like the yellow flowering E. papyrifera in early spring. Gossler Farms have found E. p. 'Red Dragon' is more tender than E. papyrifera. They grow their 4'x4' plant in morning sun in a protected place next to their house. They are only offering one per customer.
1 gal. is $45.00

4.TREE PEOPNY ‘Baron Thyssen Bornemisza’

Tree Peony’s are desirable enough, and anyone perusing the Klehm's Song Sparrow Nursery site will undoubtedly not leave without ordering at least one. But at $225.00, this gem might be a little costly, although it has another jewel cross from the species form P. rockii, ‘Joseph Rock’, and bit more affordable at $140., they are still both on my wish list. But when I see these show up in slide presentations by some of the worlds’ most noteworthy horticulturists, as their favorite plants ( like those by John Lonsdale), then I know I too must have one, for these guys know. I’ve seed ‘Joseph Rock’, in October, and not in bloom, and I still wanted it, it virtually jumped out visually from the garden. All tree peony’s are nice, and any choice tree Peonies would cost one at least $75.00 US, but there is a good reason – they are extraordinary, and very few nurseries grow them, especially the best ones.
Tree Peony 'JOSEPH ROCK',a 'steal' at $140.00..but a peony 6 feet tall and 6 feet high? What would your neighbors say?In recent years, various species have been introduced, and most are very good, but particularly the Chinese species, Paeonia suffruticossa subsp. rockii, ( or just P. rockii), named after famed plant explorer Sir Joseph Rock who first collected the plant although some say it was discovered in 1910 by Reginald Farrer, this introduction is even more extraordinary than the pure species form, which alone, can reach an amazing size of 7 feet tall and 7 feet wide in the UK. Today, there are many seed grown sources for the true species or P. rockii, but these newer crosses are even better, for these two have P. rockii in their blood, but are perhaps the two most ‘must-have’ plants on any of the worlds top ten horticulturists list. They just don’t tell you. Other Tree Peony's that are extraordinary are available at Klehm's. Buy one a year and build a collection. I should start one, I know....but only when I win the lottery!


At $50.00 for one lily bulb, you may think I am crazy. but this is one of a handful of rare martagon lilies currently available for fall shipping from the Lily Nook. Martagons are a specie lily one rarely sees anymore, except in Europe. It's foliage is one of the plants best attributes, with lovely whorls that are like parasols, along the stem. I am a sucker for any lily that has a pendant flower, and even more of a sucker for any L. martagon cultivar beyond the more common but still hard to find old classic, Mrs. R.O. Backhouse. An martagon is nice, and the get better with age if sited well. This beauty is something that I really want, since I have never seen it offered before.


One can certainly start one of these by themselves, but there are some benefits in getting one pretrained. I’ve been wanting a tree wisteria for years now, in fact, ever since I worked as a gardener at a local small private estate while in high school in the 1970’s. I had forgotten about the Stoddards 4 established 'tree Wisterias, that bloomed every May witht heir long, white, orange blosom scented panicles descending to the ground like a waterfall. The four massive plants required a few minutes of training with secateurs all summer, as we trimmed back the runners and long vines that make Wisteria both lovely and despised by many. Still, a mature 'tree wisteria' is an amazing site, and the plant makes a nice statement even when not in bloom, and surprisingly interesting with its muscular, angular branches in the winter.Not actually a tree, these are vines trained into a standard, and the only reason I recommend White Flower Farm is that I have seen these plants there, and they are well trained, often in bud (which is always an issue) and most of the work is done for you. Besides, you are assured that you are getting a truly floriferous variety. Branches, bark, Buds, flowers, form, sillohette, a pre-trained Wisteria in either blue or white from White Flower Farm makes a strong statement as a stand-alone specimen shrub, or added to a border.I have not decided yet if I will plant mine in a large tub, (as they do at WWF) or in the ground near my new fence. If I could afford two, then this would be easy, but again, at $150. Per plant, this is a bit of an investment. I do remember a few years ago visiting White Flower Farm on their opening day in April, during a freak snow storm, and they had just pulled out of their greenhouse, an impressive trained tree wisteria in tight bud, growing in a four foot wide terra rosa pot (tub). I wanted it so bad; it has remained in my mind for at least 20 years now. (I’m SO old!). (Well, I was only 12 at the time!) ( RIGHT!). OK……I turned 50 this year, and I am treating my self to a trained Tree Wisteria, damn it!

from Joe Pye Weed Garden

There are many iris species and varieties, and I would imagine that most of you think of the giant, floppy German Bearded Iris when you think of Iris. Siberian Iris are more growable, in fact, they are rather indestructible, but not only are they hard to find, which I could never figure out, the few varieties that are available are virtually ancient, and rather unimpressively purple or blue.These are the iris that are always shared at plant exchanges, (the really old varieties or species), but a few of those gardeners ‘in the know’ know that there are other options.I will change your life. Order any of the extraordinary Siberian’s from Joe Pye Weed, and you will not only have cars stopping, you will be able to share divisions with your friends,(if you want to!). Jan and Marty first started their garden after taking over a Siberian iris breeders home garden, so these are not only plants with provenance, they are some of, if not, the best varieties available, and the only source since they are so small.With colors that range from peach, to beige ( my favs), violets, pinks, yellows, it is so hard to recommend any one. I prefer tall ones, taller than 40 inches like Tall Dark and Handsome, or brown ones like So Van Gogh and Humors of Whiskey. But how can one decide? Crème Caramel, Hot Sketch, Mister Peacock and June to Remember…all are arriving in my garden this year, and these plants, unlike the more fussy German Bearded Iris, will most likely out live me. My Dad is 96, and his fathers Siberians are still growing here!

Ilex serrata 'Hatsuyuki'

I’m a sucker for yellow-berried Holly’s but white berried cultivars are only better, much better. Thanks to Barry Yingers incredible nursery, Asiatica Nursery, now we all can have one. I could have completed this entire top ten list from the Asiatica catalog, but in an effort to be more diverse, I have resisted.
Ilex serrata is the Asian counterpart of our native Ilex verticillata, a deciduous shrubby holly grown for its beautiful fruit in autumn. This variety is the only white-fruited deciduous holly. The Asian species is more finely textured, with smaller berries, and generally not as big as our native species, growing to about 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. This old and rare Japanese variety has small but abundant creamy white fruit that are about 3/16 inch in diameter. It likes rich well-drained soil in sun or light shade, not too dry. These are 15"+ tall plants. USDA Zones 5 to 8.

Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate'

Asiatica has done it again, with this amazing chocolate colored Mimosa tree. Barry says, “This patented Japanese selection was made by Dr. Masato Yokoi. I saw the original plant in his garden years ago, and received a plant from the first round of propagation. Its lacy purple foliage is unique among hardy trees and shrubs. It grows very quickly to make a small tree with a broad crown, or it can be cut back in the spring to make a bushy multi-stemmed color accent in the perennial border.” It has thrived in USDA Zone 6. It prefers a sunny location and is very tolerant of poor, dry soil. In full sun the leaves will be deep purple, contrasting with the pink and white flowers.


I’ve been searching for the Agapanthus species, A inapertus for a long time. This species has pendant flowers that hang straight down. I’ve tried growing some from wild collected seed, but no luck. Apparently someone has made a selection and has micro propagated it since a handful of nurseries are carrying it this year. This named form is one of the best, and I am encouraged by the fact that it is shipped in a 2-gallon container, since other suppliers have this selection either in 1-quart pots, or bareroot.This selection of A. inapertus has deep blue pendulous flowers in midsummer. This plant was named and introduced by the Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden in South Africa. We don't know the hardiness yet but this plant would make an excellent container plant or plant for the milder garden.
1 gal. $14.00 from Gossler Farms. If you have never ordered from Gossler, you must….if only to see the packing crate. With full sized root balls, slings of rope that hold plants in place and an impressive grid of wood stakes to keep the boxes from collapsing. No one ships better plants in a better method than Gossler.


  1. Matt, great Muddy Boot Award winners, I have the "summer chocolate" Mimosa and LOVE it,my brother Kevin breeds Siberians, and I'll pass on your selections! Thanks, great choices! Brian

  2. Anonymous1:49 PM

    I spotted the‘Baron Thyssen Bornemisza’ last year from the song sparrow nursery catalog and instantly fell in love it has been on my wish list as well. I did a google search and could not find another resource, so I guess I'm going to have to splurge on this beauty.

  3. Wow - the pardancandas are offically on MY wish list.

  4. Matt,
    I hope you are going to put your 2010 list up!

  5. Anonymous6:11 PM

    Why in God's green earth would any one in their right mind want to purposely grow Giant Horsetail. It is the bane of gardeners around the United States! I'm constantly reading blogs and forums of gardeners like myself who desperately want to eradicate this pest!

  6. This clone named ‘Graskop’, occurs in Mpumalanga near the town of Graskop and grows in grassland areas in the summer rainfall area. It is a deciduous species which has narrow light green leaves. Plants stand about 600 mm tall and the flower stems reach a height of 900 mm. They flower in January and February. The plants need abundant water during the growing season and should be planted in well-drained soil in full sunlight. They make good container plants and are best appreciated in the landscape as specimen plants or in small groups. They can also be mixed with other plants, but must not be overcrowded or they will not flower well. Although deciduous, they do tolerate rain during their dormant period. They can withstand sub zero temperatures for short periods but at Inverewe in Scotland several nights at minus 10 degrees Celsius killed large clumps. In the northern hemisphere plants in containers can be moved into a glasshouse during winter while plants outdoors should be covered with straw or similar material to help protect them.

    from the PlantZAfrica site


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