Yesterday, I took my annual 3 1/2-hour-trek to one of my favorite nurseries, Rocky Dale Gardens in Bristol, VT with two gardening friends. I have been going to Rocky Dale for over a dozen years and it is always worth the trouble getting there. Rocky Dale specializes in rare and unusual woodies, perennials and annuals for the discriminating gardener. They have lovely display gardens that the owner, Ed Burke, has been renovating since he bought the nursery in 2004.
Amy Rose-White, the nursery manager and old friend, is extremely knowledgeable about anything that is grown in Zone 5. Every year, I email her a wish list for unusual annuals. She usually finds them for me at two nurseries in New York, Beds and Borders and Landcraft Environments. Beds and Borders supplies a coleus called 'Compact Red'. I first saw this coleus when I visited Lynden Miller's Sharon, CT garden. She also used it in all her public gardens. 'Compact Red' is a cascading plant with claret, edged with chartreuse, velvety foliage. It makes a wonderful edge of the border or container plant that compliments any color on the wheel.
Amy found two foliage plants, Solanum quitoense and Senecio petasitis, for me at Lancraft Environments. They describe the senecio as "native to the mountains of Oaxaca Mexico." Also known as "velvet groundsel gets its name from the large, mostly green tinged with plum velvety leaves." It takes full sun and can handle dry conditions. I am planning to place it in the borders in front of the pavilion at Depot Park. I will use the solanum, a member of a large genus that includes the eggplant and potatoes, in two large metal pots from India near the terrace in my own garden. Last year, I paired it with the 'Compact Red' coleus to great effect. Solanum quitoense has huge velvety leaves with purple hairs and menacing thorns that always attract comments from visitors.