Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee

Top Cut Flower and Foliage Varieties for Southeast Region Members

Since we shifted most of the New Varieties section from winter to the fall issue of the Quarterly, I thought it might be fun to ask all of you in the Southeast for your favorite varieties—whether they were new ones you’re just now trying or good ol’ workhorses. I was honestly afraid that responses to my email would be really low because everyone’s so crazy busy, but NO! You were quick to reply, sending more than 100 of your favorites AND you sent more than 70 photos to boot! I’ve included as many as I could here and have saved them all to hopefully use somewhere else.

First takeaway from your feedback

Foliages! First of all, it’s what you said about foliages and how often you included them in your top picks—nearly 30 percent of the favorite varieties you gave me overall are foliages!

“We have found that there has been a scramble and fight and hunger for our foliage and filler from ALL our clients—florists to farmers’ market customers, and we can’t keep up with the demand,” says first-year farmer Anne Phythyon of Franklin Flower Farm in North Carolina.

“Foliage is something we can never get enough of.” says seasoned grower David Martin of Free Range Flowers in Kentucky. The five favorites he sent included varieties used for both greenery and flowers: Viburnum plicatum ‘Popcorn,’ Spirea x vanhouttei ‘Renaissance’, variegated Solomon’s seal, and baptisia ‘Twilight Prairie Blues.’ If you’re looking for a “double duty” plant, look no further than these.

Your other top perennial foliages are ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) ’Darts Gold’, mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), and Artemesia.

Your favorite annual foliages are ‘Mrs. Burns’ lemon basil, red-leaf hibiscus (both ‘Mahogany Splendor’ and cranberry) and ‘Dara’ (Daucus carota), with shiso Perilla (especially ‘Purple Ruffles’) being the #1 most-mentioned foliage of all. An added perk with shiso: it reseeds.

Also worth a look—and perhaps a try!

Claire Charny of Clear Black Flowers Farm & Design in North Carolina says her new standout favorite has been Plectranthus ‘Silver Shield.’ “I know a lot of people are trying it for the first time this year since Farmer Bailey made it available as a plug; it’s like a cross between lamb’s ear and dusty miller, but taller. The color is great.”

A final thought on foliages, also from Anne Phythyon, that I found really interesting: “Debra Prinzing has a fantastic podcast episode with Tom Jennings of Green Mountain Florist Supply that is worth a listen to. What caught my attention in this episode is where Tom talks about the wholesale flower business, the price of a flower not changing in 20 years but then he gets excited about the basil that local growers are growing and selling. You’ve got a seasoned wholesaler a bit jaded from the biz (understand that) but then just gets excited about basil.” Here’s a link to the podcast: episode-394-the-wholesale-florists-outlook-with-tom-jennings-of-green-mountain-floristsupply-in-burlington-vermont/ 

Perhaps like some of you, for me it’s again been another tough year for dahlias, with 90F days beginning in May and running nonstop through August. While too many of my dahlias languished, our foliages went on like troupers and I made more money from them than I have in the past two years with dahlias. Some favs: baptisia and ninebark (any variety), mountain mint, perennial begonia, sweet autumn clematis (not in bloom), red-leaf hibiscus, reseeded Perilla (shiso) ‘Britton’, and hydrangea foliage.

Favorite flowers—and a few surprises

Good ol’ workhorses, like anemones, ranunculus (‘LaBelle White’, Elegance series, and Butterfly series), zinnias (Benary series, specifically ‘Giant Wine’ and ‘Giant Deep Red’, ‘Queen Lime Orange’), dahlias (with ‘Peaches ’n Cream’ getting lots of love), and sunflowers (‘Italian White’, ‘Vincent’s Choice,’ ‘Strawberry Blonde’, and the ProCut series), were listed as top favorites by lots of members, but heading up the Top Three most-mentioned have-to-have flowers are:

1. Celosias, specifically ‘Flaming Feather Pink,’ ‘Spring Green,’ ‘Sunday Orange,’ ‘Amazon,’ ‘Supercrest,’ ‘Texas Pampas Plume’, and ‘Flamingo Feathers.’

2. Lisianthus. The Voyage series (with Apricot and White called out specifically) were hailed as excellent producers, and growers also loved the Arena series (especially Gold) and ‘Mariachi Yellow’.

3. Rudbeckias of all types were BY FAR the top single pick, with the greatest number of kudos going to ‘Sahara.’ Susie Kara of Little Mountain Flower Farm in Tennessee summed up what others are saying, “The unique shapes and shades of ‘Sahara’ add so much interest to bouquets, and designers love them too!”

I’d like to call out a couple of the varieties that didn’t get a lot of mentions, but you may find a few in here worth trying next year.

Peacock orchid (Acidanthera murielae, Abyssinian gladiolus). Mary Mason Royal of The Royal Gardens in Georgia listed it as her #1 favorite. “I plant these late in May, so they begin blooming in August. I dig them up and plant new bulbs each year.”

Basketflower (Centaurea americana). I loved reading what Emily Copus of Carolina Flowers in North Carolina wrote: “The standout most talked-about flower of the year by my customers has been basketflower. Part of me wants to keep it a secret!

But I think I’ve already let the cat out of the bag and I know 3 Porch Farm and Little State Flower Farm were growing it this year also. For me, it was that treasure you’re always hoping to find when you’re reading the seed catalog. Basketflower has such a cool texture. And it’s a large bloom. And it’s super easy to grow. Just direct seed and ignore. (Well, sort of. It’s about as close as you can get to that anyway!) Vase life isn’t perfect. It IS long lasting, but it changes shape after a couple of days. The petals fold back. Customers don’t seem to mind. They just love it!”

Thanks to all for sharing your favorites! This is such a great, generous and sharing community. A rising tide floats all boats. Cheers!

Valerie Schirmer

Three Toads Farm

Valerie Schirmer Three Toads Farm Contact at [email protected]