March 2016 Issue #75  
_ Andropogon _Red October_
   Andropogon 'Red October'

MARCH 2016
March is an easy, ironic anagram for "charm," a quality conspicuous by its absence in weeks 9 through 13. Though it occasionally dips a tentative toe into spring, this moody month more often has both feet sloshing about in winter's slushy dregs.

Despite March's bipolar, charm-challenged mien, warmer weather is indisputably nigh. The sun shines longer, temperatures rise above freezing for days, not hours at a time, baseballs fly in FL and AZ, and mergansers dive for fish in the river behind my house--  all surer signs of spring than those optimistic robins.

Hooded Merganser

What's green & juicy & hot all over? Succulents! We go out on a limb for you with spec-produced succulence like no other propagator: Over 40 types and 2,000 trays of Sedum, a dozen options and 600 trays of Sempervivum, and 250 trays of Delosperma in 20 varieties, ready to pot now. And don't forget Lewisia, a lovely North American native better-known in Europe than at home. Let's fix that, shall we?

Speaking of natives: Andropogon gerardii has long been known as a workhorse grass species, tough as nails and only a little prettier. Well, 'Rain Dance' and 'Red October' are changing all that, revolutionizing the genus with sizzling new color combos.

Attention Northern customers: Please keep our PA crew busy. If they hold still too long they freeze solid, and we have to truck them down here to defrost.

Sempervivum arachnoideum Forest Frost
Sempervivum  'Forest Frost'
Lewisia xlongipetala Little Plum
Lewisia xlongipetala Little Plum

Andropogon _Rain Dance__ _Red October_

Hey, Buffalo, New Yorkers: Are we still friends? Last month, This Space dissed you for living where, as Garrison Keillor said, "Each winter, God backs the truck up and drops the whole load." Well, we're finally dug out from a snowstorm that would impress even a Buffaloon, and our Floridians are teasing us. My apologies. We feel your pain, or will as soon as our numb toes and fingers thaw.

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But spring springs eternal in the greenhouses. Some are running warm, with new seedlings erupting. Others are dialed down for semi-dormant liners keeping their cool, biding their time. In the latter category: Delphinium 'Summer Blues' and 'Summer Colors'. See What's Hot below for more on this in-the-spotlight genus.

VP Al Mueller points out that a flat of Festuca 'Elijah Blue' is worth more than a barrel of crude oil. Of course, the Festuca tray yields 50 gallons, 50 quarts or 50 pints, while that barrel would fill 42 gallons, 168 quarts or 336 pints. But Festuca is much prettier in the garden and on your benches, and you don't have to plug the drain holes. Don't be rude, dude! Eschew the crude. Choose 'Elijah Blue' or one of its three siblings, Beyond Blue, 'Boulder Blue' or 'Cool as Ice'

Festuca glauca Elijah Blue
Festuca 'Elijah Blue'

Festuca x Cool as Ice
Festuca 'Cool as Ice'

Festuca glauca Beyond Blue
Festuca Beyond Blue


The National Garden Bureau has declared 2016 the Year of the Delphinium. We're here for you with the Summer series, bred for compact growth, excellent branching and prolific flowering. Just 12-14" tall, they're hardy in Zones 3 - 8.

blooms sweet, pale, blushing blue.

brings a bodacious blend of blue, pink and white.
Delphinium grandiflorum Summer Blues
Delphinium 'Summer Blues'
Delphinium elatum Summer Colors
Delphinium 'Summer Colors'

Weird facts: Delphinium comes from the Latin for "dolphin." Some ancient named it that on porpoise, for the shape of the flower's nectar-producing structure. All species are toxic to humans and livestock. Don't eat the larkspur!

Per NGB, this is also the Year of the Carrot, the Begonia and the Allium. In China, it's the Year of the Fire Monkey. Who gives matches to monkeys, anyway?
In like a fish, out like a ram.
Pisces, your tailfin tees up early March, and the cloven hoof of Aries drives it down the fairway to the green of April. Whatever your sign, beware friends who seek big favors. Don't end up like the writer who donated a kidney to his editor, only to have it rejected.

It's hard to point to any one variety or genus as the most popular thing flying off our benches these weeks. From Achillea to Viola, Acorus to Tripsacum, via our trucks, FedEx, UPS or customer pickup, it's all on the move from our benches to yours.

Lavandula _Mini Blue_
Lavandula 'Mini Blue'

But a couple of items caught our collective eye out in the shipping house. Lavandula 'Mini Blue' and Leptinella 'Platt's Black' look terrific. So do Pennisetum 'Rubrum', the world's most popular ornamental grass, and its offspring 'Fireworks'. And Brunnera 'Sea Heart' and 'Silver Heart' will brighten your heart with their gleaming metallic sheen.

From our bench to yours.
Leptinella squalida Platts Black
Leptinella 'Platt's Black'
Pennisetum xadvena Rubrum
Pennisetum 'Rubrum'
Brunnera  Sea Heart
Brunnera 'Sea Heart'
Brunnera Garden Candy_ Silver Heart
Brunnera 'Silver Heart'

A moment of silence, please, in honor of two fine plantsmen.

■ Dr. Sam Jones, Professor of Botany at the University of Georgia, died in February. Dr. Jones and his wife Carleen founded Piccadilly Farm, an early champion of Helleborus. Among many accolades, they were co-recipients of the Perennial Plant Association's highest honor, the Award of Merit, in 2005.

■ Allen Lacy, gardener, garden columnist, author and philosopher left us in December, but I only found out recently. Mea culpa. If you can find a copy, Farther Afield: A Gardener's Excursions is an entertaining and informative read.

I occasionally ask people in gratuitously cold climates why they put up with their relentless winters. Sales rep Jayne Roberts (Frostbite Falls, MN) replied, "It keeps the riffraff out." Well, we PA riffraff are ready for respite. C'mon, spring!

Are you a willing denizen of some numbingly frigid zone? Why? What hybrid of hometown pride, masochism and remuneration keeps you stuck like a tongue on a flagpole in Caribou, ME, or Snag, Yukon? RSVP, I really am curious. 

Wherever you are, for whatever reason, our riffraff wish your riffraff a kick-butt 2016. 

Go get 'em!

John Friel
John Friel  
Marketing Manager    
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