All -- Gardening -- Mimulus x aurantiacus ‘Cherry’.jpg

Happy New Year! Time sure flies, doesn’t it? With another year come and gone and a multitude of successes and failures to draw from, it’s time to forge ahead to a new year in our gardens.

Speaking of successes, I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite plants of 2019. While foliage plants are invaluable for their verdant endurance throughout the growing season, I do love my flowers. Most of them come and go but there are four flowering plants that really outdid themselves last spring, summer and fall. I want to share my 2019 garden winners.

1. One of my newest plant acquisitions is a California native monkeyflower (Mimulus x aurantiacus ‘Cherry’) purchased online last spring from Annie’s Annuals and Perennials. I was immediately swooning over photos of the raspberry-red flowers and, because it is easy to grow and winter-hardy here in the Pacific Northwest, it flew right into my cart. I wasn’t exactly sure where to plant it in my garden, so I grew it in a pot. Would you believe it still had blooms at the end of the year? It’s supposed to get 2 to 3 feet tall and wide but it stayed about 12 inches or so in the pot. I’m anxious to see how it will do in the ground this coming season since I think I’ve found just the right spot for it. Annie’s website also lists an orange and a white flowered variety.

2. Another newbie for me is Erodium manescavi, a hardy Geranium relative with sweet, violet-purple flowers blooming in clusters atop wiry stems. While many hardy Geraniums like to spread and sprawl, this Erodium stays comparatively compact and low growing, making it perfect for a rock garden or front of the border edging plant. Again, by year’s end my plant still sported a few blossoms, despite several nights with temps dipping below freezing. Another bonus is that this plant will mildly reseed. I bought my plant at, a fantastic nursery in California specializing in hardy geraniums.

3. Several years ago I bought what I thought was Clematis “Alionushka” — a bush (integrifolia) clematis with bright pink, bell-shaped flowers. I’ve since learned that mislabeled clematis plants are common because, until they bloom, they all look basically the same. When my ‘Alionushka’ bloomed, it was clearly not what it was supposed to be. Rather than the expected pink flowers, this plant had deeper pinkish-magenta colored flowers that faced upward.

Once I positively identified it as Clematis integrifolia ‘Inspiration’ I read up on its attributes, got it situated in the garden and let it do its thing. It starts flowering in May, then continues to push out flowers until late October, without much deadheading and no cutting back. I’ve since purchased a correctly identified ‘Alionushka’ that I love but I’m so glad my first attempt turned out to be a winner. Both clematis can be purchased at Joy Creek Nursery. (

4. While the fancy-leaved Coral Bells continues to impress with new additions being added yearly to the already huge assortment of offerings, my favorite Coral Bells, (heuchera) came to me years ago when my garden buddy Carol and I attended a presentation at Garland Nursery.

The speaker generously gifted each participant with two Heuchera ‘Paris’ plugs. We each took our plants home and every year since have been blessed with not only pretty scalloped-edged leaves in variegated green colors but with continuous bright rosy-red flowering spikes. I have divided my plant several times now and each division starts blooming in April or May and continues until heavy frost. Supposedly, this plant performs best with part shade but I’ve had some of mine in full sun with continuously moist soil and they thrive. A bonus is watching hummingbirds delight on the nectar. heuchera ‘Paris’ is available at better plant nurseries in the area. ☸

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