While I hate to spring any mention of winter on you, in this the first few weeks of autumn, one of your best choices for cool season colour can be found in abundance at your local garden centre.
Heuchera, which are evergreen here in coastal B.C., are a reliable perennial for reviving those tired summer planters or even sprucing up the landscape on the way to front door – which is why there is such a good selection in early autumn, particularly in the Proven Winners fall line, geared towards rejuvenating your entrance or patio containers.
The colour range of this perennial has also expanded exponentially these past few years and has broadened to include a true purple (‘Forever Purple’), eye-catching orange (‘Paprika’), pewter overlay (‘Silver Gumdrop’) and near black (PRIMO ‘Black Pearl’), which is ideal for those soon-to-appear Halloween displays.
The true colours of autumn are also well represented by this evergreen species and include ‘Cinnamon Curls’ (glossy copper-red), ‘Carnival Fall Festival’ and ‘Crème Brulee’ (blend of orange, red and tan).
Of course, this means that you can’t use that tired excuse of not being able to find the perfect colour, because whether you’re matching the pot or the paint on the front door, that elusive hue can be found in Heuchera if you look hard enough.
Even your hanging baskets can be gutted and replanted with a combination of violas or pansies, along with evergreen perennials, such as variegated sage (Salvia officinalis), bud bloomer heathers (Calluna vulgaris) and Helichrysum ‘Icicles’ or licorice plant.
Trailers such as golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’) and variegated forms of English Ivy (Hedera helix) like ‘Glacier’ or ‘Yellow Ripple’ can take the place of those tired petunias or bacopa.
Evergreen grasses also look great cascading over the edge with your best choices being Acorus ‘Ogon’, Carex ‘Evergold’ or weeping brown sedge (Carex flagillifera).
The heuchera provide a pop of brilliant colour to breathe some life into these hanging basket combinations and can either be planted on the top edge or even the sidewall of a moss planter.
The most sun tolerant of these tend to be the purple or burgundy-leaved forms such as ‘Dolce Blackcurrant’ (burgundy with a silver overlay), ‘Melting Fire’ (red to maroon) and one of the first ornamental heuchera, ‘Palace Purple’.
Conversely, those varieties with bright chartreuse foliage such as ‘Lime Rickey’ (ruffled leaves), ‘Key Lime Pie’ and the new ‘Appletini’ (red flowers) tend to scorch in full sun exposures and are best used on sites with partial shade.
Those gardeners with deeper shade can turn to Heucherellas, which are a Heuchera x Tiarella hybrid with very large and often colourful foliage.
Trailing forms such as ‘Yellowstone Falls’ (lime green to gold with brown inset spotting), ‘Crimson Cascade’ (coppery-red) and ‘Redstone Falls’ (ruby red foliage) all make an impressive show in larger mixed planters.
Other more upright forms worth considering include ‘Sweet Tea’ (tan, orange, apricot), ‘Golden Zebra’ (gold inset with reddish-brown), ‘Dayglow Pink’ (green with pink flowers) and ‘Solar Eclipse’ (chartreuse with burgundy inset).
When planting heuchera in the landscape try to use them sparingly, as accents or contrasts between blocks of mass planted winter heather or blue fescue grass where they provide an effective colour break.
But no matter how you choose to use these dazzling perennials in your gardens, I think most of us will agree that the brilliant foliage and enduring nature of these evergreen perennials have earned them the title of the ‘Queen of Winter.’
Mike Lascelle is a local
nursery manager and