On Gardening: Gardens of beauty await those for whom the coral bells show


There are gardens of untold beauty for whom the coral bells show — and I know many of you in the South desperately want them. Just think all of those pages of gorgeous heuchera varieties (coral bells) have their DNA forever linked to natives in the United States.

The Garden Guy came across gorgeous wild ones in the North Georgia Mountains, yet it has been rare to see them growing in a garden. To be exact, I have never seen them in a garden in the South with which I wasn’t somehow associated. I know they must be there, and I invite photo submissions.

So I want to give you two approaches. Right now in Columbus, Georgia, there is a show going on at a shopping center with mixed containers that were designed by my son James. The containers are making us all do the happy dance and shouting “I knew we could do it!” The varieties Dolce Spearmint and Primo Wild Rose are putting on their floral show.

That’s right — in Columbus in mid-April, we have drop-dead gorgeous red coral bells blooms. That immediately will wake up some of you gardeners, as you know Proven Winners’ description says they bloom in mid- to late summer. The next quirk is they are growing in full sun, though part shade to full shade is recommended.

These were planted in the fall as a kale or cabbage substitute. James is treating them as annuals. I asked him how this compares in price to the ornamental kale, and he said it wasn’t enough difference to even notice. The Garden Guy plans to be front and center with the heuchera rescue service.

A fall planting of heuchera makes a lot of sense. The hummingbirds, bees and butterflies are around to enjoy the great early April flowers. Actually, in our Zone 8a part of Georgia, fall is usually when we see them for sale at the garden centers, but most don’t realize how tough they are for our winter. Even some university recommendations or descriptions talk about the raggedy winter foliage that should be removed just prior to new growth.

This may indeed be true of spring- or summer-planted heuchera, but fall-planted is a different story.

So this brings up The Garden Guy’s more traditional method of growing heucheras in the South. My suggestion is go big or go home without heuchera. The full gallon pots seem to get established and happy in the garden. I have planted a lot of quart size, and it is like triage immediately commences before eventually losing the patient.

James is growing fall-planted heucheras in great potting soil, in full sun. I am planting in April or May in the landscape, and these will need fertile soil and afternoon shade in the South.

I have one more testimony to their rugged nature. James has been doing this for years and will dig them up, saving them for me. He doesn’t pot them up but puts them bare root in a holding yard. You will not believe what they have looked like prior to planting. It is like Lazarus returning from the dead as soon as I plant and give them water.

I’ve mentioned Dolce Spearmint and Primo Wild Rose, which James is growing. At my house I have Primo Peachberry Ice, an electrifying copper, and a deep purple and silver selection that I lost my tag for but believe to be Dolce Blackberry Ice. These have been standout performers. Their flowers are creamy white and pretty, but Dolce Spearmint’s red blooms are dazzling.

You do not have to be one who envies the neighbors. As the ones for whom the coral bells show, you can do it too!

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