Variegated alchemilla - so far so good
Patently absurd

Phlox and achilleas on trial

Phloxtrialyoder500 Visiting trials where potential new introductions are being assessed alongside those which are already on the market is always fascinating and my recent visit to Amish Country in southern PA to see the trials shared by Yoder and the US operation of Blooms of Bressingham revealed plenty of exciting potential new introductions.

There’s been a resurgence of Phlox paniculata breeding recently, with the aim of reducing the height and making the plants generally more manageable – for nursery and gardener. Mildew resistance is also an aim along, of course, with impressive color. And perhaps the most colorful part of the whole trial was the comparison of the existing Junior Series and Volcano Series phlox with a new range.

First of all, none seemed immune to mildew – personally, I think the mildew-resistant Phlox paniculata is a myth. You either have to spray, or plant something else in front to hide the mildewed foliage. ‘David’, long reckoned to be the standard in mildew-resistance, shows mildew wherever I’ve seen it. But there’s no argument with the fact that these dwarfer phlox are really spectacular and all seemed to be able to flower brilliantly even though mildew was present on the lower foliage – a valuable trait that breeders have kept in mind.

The other standout were the achilleas, and I’ve had a few on trial in my garden as well. Developed by the Sahin seed company in Holland from their ‘Summer Pastels’ and ‘Summer Berries’ seed mixtures, it was clear back in 1990 when I grew a large batch of ‘Summer Pastels’ in its first year that there were individual plants in the mix which would be worth selecting, naming and propagating by cuttings - at last they’ve done it.

Achilleapinkgrapefruit500 There are two series Tutti Frutti and Seduction: Tutti Frutti is supposed to be more mound-forming while Seduction is supposed to be more upright. I only have a limited range but ‘Pink Grapefruit’ and ‘Strawberry Seduction’ have exactly the same habit. And it wasn’t clear from the trial, either, that the two series are as distinct as perhaps they should be,

But one, ‘Pink Grapefruit’, is absolutely outstanding. The big problem with many achilleas is that the flowers start off a lovely color but fade horribly - especially pastel shades, which turn the color of dirty dishwater. ‘Pretty Belinda’Achilleaprettybelinda500 is a good example one that starts out looking good but which rapidly goes downhill. ‘Pink Grapefruit’, however, fades more harmoniously and more attractively than any, I think. It’s gorgeous – and seeing the two pinks side by side proves the point. ‘Sunny Seduction’ also looks excellent.

Look out for these achilleas in the fall ‘07 and spring ‘08 catalogs.