Peach Flambe,” “Creme Brulee,” “Marmalade,” “Lime Rickey” — wait, am I writing a food column? No, these are exotic names of recent hybrid introductions expanding the world of heucheras — known to most of us as coral bells.
Leaves of deep, dark burgundy, bright lime green or apricot/peach with burgundy veins — these are not like your grandmother’s flower garden. There’s a whole new array of heucheras available these days to add contrast to your usual green landscape. They lighten up a dark corner or add pizzazz to your shady flower border.
This tidy and compact evergreen perennial has come of age. Clumps of interesting all-year interest foliage reach up to a foot high. Summer brings forth dainty clusters of bell-shaped flowers high above the foliage on wiry stems. Blossom color depends on cultivar — most are white, pink or red, a sure-fire attraction for luring hummingbirds.
I dropped by Flowers to the Brim off 3rd Street in East Wenatchee to check out their selection. Part-time employee Janet Tritle helped me choose a range of interesting foliage colors.
Asked which coral bells are most popular. She says, “People are drawn to the dark (colored leaves) because of the way they look in the sun.”
They do just glisten.
Heucheras do best beneath an understory of trees getting dappled sun or at least afternoon shade, and ample moisture and good loamy, well-drained soil. Darker leafed ones can take more sun than the others, but unless they get ample water, leaf edges may dry out and look crispy, adds Chris Nelson, another Flowers to the Brim employee.
They are fairly short-lived perennials, but still well worth adding to your landscape and compact enough to make a dramatic border in front of shrubs.
A few that caught my eye were:
“Obsidian” is the darkest leafed one, sporting shiny black, satiny foliage with creamy flowers. I can picture the bright green blades of Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa) as a companion. Or in front of hostas, with their big, textured leaves.
“Raspberry Ice” has dark burgundy foliage with a silver cast. Flowers are two-toned, bright pink. Team it with hellebores, bergenias or perhaps something with blue flowers.
“Peach Flambe” starts as bright orange-red richly veined foliage and, as it matures, changes to peach, then plum color. White bells atop wiry stems make added summer interest. This would be more dramatic set off next to any of the dark-leafed coral bells.
“Lime Rickey” sports ruffled leaves of chartreuse with cream-colored flowers. It would brighten a shady corner, perhaps paired with purple pansies.
“Tiramisu” has more golden/chartreuse foliage, with blushes of red veining while young. As leaves mature, they turn more red with a bright golden edge. These last two lime/golden cultivars would pair up nicely with black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus) or perhaps blue campanulas.
Bottom line on having such high contrast colors — don’t overdo them. A little drama makes for great interest, while too much looks overblown.
Amy Fleming, owner of Flowers to the Brim, began her nursery north of Orondo in 2001, and moved to the present location in 2008, just east of the Wenatchee Valley Mall.
Tritle says, “I like working here because flowers make people happy. People come in to feel good.”
A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in the At Home section. Mary Fran McClure is one of three columnists featured.