- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gardeners can find solace on a winter’s day by shopping the pages of the plant catalogs that have been arriving in the mail since last month. Every year, lots of new plants are available, more usually in the catalogs than in your local garden center because the garden center has to devote the most space to plants for which there is the greatest demand.

This is not bad. Gardeners want plants that have proved to be long-flowering and hardy. We tend to add to our gardens those that have done well in the past. At the same time, it’s fun to try something new.

I have had as many failures as successes when trying new plants. I have a shady yard, and even shade-loving plants need a little sunlight to flower. Many shade-loving plants need a moist site, and those that survive dry shade might become hors d’oeuvres for slugs or dinner for deer. The question becomes, how much effort do you want to put into your plants, or do you want your garden to be all but maintenance free?

Generally, I choose to limit watering to each year’s new plants, including a few containers of colorful annuals at the front walk and on the patio. Everything else should be drought-resistant. Generally, I choose deer-resistant plants, but I have a few the deer like and I spray them with repellent.

The new annual I bought last year was a yellow lysimachia with variegated foliage that worked nicely in an arrangement in an old wheelbarrow I use as a patio container. The deer nibbled at it, and I had to spray it once over the summer, but it was worth it because it wept nicely over the sides of the wheelbarrow, flowered into autumn and stayed nice and full with little sun.

I see lysimachia listed as an annual in two catalogs I have on my desk. The White Flower Farm catalog (whiteflower farm.com, 800/503-9624) offers the variety Lysimachia nummularia Aurea with trailing stems and the common name of gold moneywort. White Flower Farm is a large family-owned retail nursery in Connecticut that has been in business since 1950.

The other catalog is from another family-owned business, Babikow Greenhouses, in business since 1875 in Baltimore. Babikow is a wholesale business that supplies annuals and perennials to garden centers and landscape contractors throughout the Baltimore and Washington areas (www.babikow.com, 800/835-7617). Babikow lists an annual Lysimachia Walkabout Sunset with golden flowers and yellow foliage marked with red.

Each of these catalogs also lists many new plants, offered for the first time this year. Those listed by White Flower Farms include:

• In the coleus section, a new one called coleus zabrina with stripes of pink, cream and green that promises to be “a vigorous grower for any location,” shade, part shade or sun.

• Among the many begonias, a new one called John Smith begonia, which has double ruffled flowers in delicate peach and is “the first scented upright begonia.”

• A new variegated lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis Albostriata, with the same little white flowers as the classic lily of the valley but foliage with a fine creamy white variegation instead of plain green leaves.

• A Coreopsis Full Moon, described as “even better” than the Coreopsis verticillata Moonbeam, which is a perennial favorite. The new variety also is drought-tolerant.

• Hemerocallis zella Virginia, a fragrant double day lily in cool coral pink with apricot-orange overtones. It promises to be long-blooming and hardy in the cold.

The new offerings listed by Babikow include:

• A new line of bushy snapdragons in burgundy, pink, red, rose and yellow.

• An astilbe Sister Theresa with clusters of salmon pink flowers above dark fernlike foliage that blooms from spring into midsummer.

• A new catmint, Nepeta subsessilis, with large deep-blue flowers and fragrant foliage that blooms from midsummer into autumn.

• A helleborus Brandywine that flowers in shade in a full range of colors, including dark reds, spotted pinks and apricots.

• A perennial crane’s bill, Geranium maculatum, a woodland native with pink to lavender flowers in spring and bold green foliage.

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