Unusual plants: Don’t miss these Hot Picks in Great Plant Sale

penstemon 'Midnight Masquerade'
Penstemon ‘Midnight Masquerade’ is an easy-to grow perennial with many great features. It is one of the Hot Picks in this year’s Great Plant Sale held by the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. Photo courtesy Proven Winners®

by Connie Oswald Stofko

In the Great Plant Sale, “We want to offer things you’re not going to see everywhere,” said Sharon Reader, volunteer at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens and a member of the committee that chose the plants for the sale.

The deadline to pre-order is Friday, April 5, but if you want one of the really spectacular Hot Picks, you better order now — They often sell out quick.

UPDATE: The deadline to order plants has been extended to Wednesday, April 10.

By the way, Botanical Gardens members get a 10 percent discount at the sale. You can become a member online.

The members of the committee choosing the plants browsed through lots of catalogs. “We were like kids in a candy store,” Reader said.

To whittle down the many options, Reader would ask herself, “Would I buy this plant? Would I recommend it to friends to buy?” (She just moved to a new house with a landscape that’s a blank canvas, so she is excited that she has lots of room for new plants.)

Though it was hard, they did narrow down the choices for 2019, and they already have ideas of what they would like to offer next year! Other members of the committee are Kristin Pochopin, director of Horticulture; Joshua Badding, horticulturist; Andrea Stiglmeier, gardener, and Peggy Koppmann, volunteer.

Other exciting news: Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com is proud to be a sponsor of the Great Plant Sale!

The sale will offer perennials, shrubs and annuals. You can see all of the pre-order offerings in the Great Plant Sale here. (Note: There are two pages.)

Here are a few Hot Picks.

Perennials: nativar and shade


Penstemon ‘Midnight Masquerade’ may be super hot this year. (See the photo at the top of this article.) It was listed in an article on “Emerging Gardening Trends” in the latest edition of The American Gardener, the publication of the American Horticultural Society, noted Koppmann, the other volunteer from the committee.

‘Midnight Masquerade’ was included in a section on the trend toward the use of more native plants. Not a true native plant, this is a “nativar,” a hybrid between two eastern North American natives, Penstemon digitalis and Penstemon calycosus.

It was selected for the Great Plant Sale because it attracts bees and birds. It’s easy to grow and gets its name because of the foliage, which is a deep eggplant purple. The flowers are lavender purple with pure white interiors.

‘Midnight Masquerade’ gets tall — 36 to 40 inches — so it’s a nice way to add height to your garden. It needs sun.


Hosta 'Dancing Queen'
With its yellow-green leaves, Hosta ‘Dancing Queen’ can provide contrast with other hostas in your shady garden. Photo courtesy Walters Gardens, Inc.

When gardeners want color in shady areas, they often turn to hostas. While there is a huge number of varieties, hostas generally have leaves that are green, green and white or blue-green, Reader said.

To contrast with the other varieties you may have in your garden, the committee chose Hosta ‘Dancing Queen’, which has yellow-green leaves.

“It’s different,” Reader said. “It stays yellow all season.”

It’s a large specimen — 18 to 30 inches high and 36 inches wide — so it can be a showpiece in your garden.

Shrub: unusual butterfly bush

Buddleia Wisteria Lane
Buddleia ‘Wisteria Lane’ looks like a wisteria vine, but is actually a butterfly bush. Photo courtesy Cultivaris North America

A hot pick in the shrub category is Buddleia ‘Wisteria Lane’, a butterfly bush that looks like a wisteria.

“When I saw this buddleia, I swore it was a wisteria,” Reader said.

While the shape and color of the flowers make them look like wisteria blossoms, the shrub as a whole looks like a weeping butterfly bush.

The flowers are honey scented, and they attract butterflies and bees.

‘Wisteria Lane’ is also heat and drought tolerant.

It likes sun and gets about two feet high, but give it some room — it gets three to four feet wide.

Annual: black petals

Petals that are almost black are the attraction of this carnation called Dianthus chinensis heddewigii. Photo courtesy Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, RareSeeds.com

Many people enjoy plants in rare shades of black, and plant collectors will love this carnation called Dianthus chinensis heddewigii. The petals are deep maroon — almost black — and fringed with contrasting white.

“I think it’s just a knockout because of its looks,” Reader said.

Another thing that I like about this plant is that it is fragrant, and scent is always a wonderful addition to a garden. It’s deer resistant and attracts butterflies and bees, too.

Dianthus chinensis heddewigii likes sun or part sun. The plants get more than a foot tall.

10 Comments on “Unusual plants: Don’t miss these Hot Picks in Great Plant Sale

  1. I bought tulip poppies (hunnemannia fumariifolia) picked them up in May. In 6 weeks they havent grown an inch. Any suggestions on what’s wrong.

  2. Susan, click through to the list of plants on the Botanical Gardens’ website. When you click on the photo of a plant, you’ll see the the prices and expected mature size for each. On some of the plants it says whether it comes in a 4-pack, 6-pack or 4-inch pot, etc. If the plant you are interested in doesn’t have the purchase size listed, contact the Botanical Gardens directly. I hope that helps!

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