Polemonium ‘Golden Feathers’ has striking golden variegated foliage that keeps its brightness all season. (Photo by Kathy Jentz)

When you gather a bunch of horticultural professionals together the talk naturally turns to plants — old favorites, new introductions, past failures, and hard-to-find specimens.
For the plant-obsessed, gathering with fellow plant-nerds is the next best thing to being in the garden.
The Perennial Plant Association (PPA) recently met in Lancaster, Pa., for its annual meeting of plant breeders, growers, sellers, and enthusiast.
This year’s meeting was special as it was delayed twice by the COVID-19 pandemic and folks were eager to see longtime friends and meet new colleagues.
It was also special because the emphasis was on native plants and the pollinators plus other beneficial insects they support.
The PPA meeting included visits to wholesale greenhouse operations that are not normally open to the public, as well as stops at local public and private gardens.
It was fascinating to see the plants in production and how they select the best of the best in their breeding programs.
I was able to preview some of these offerings and even trial a few in my Maryland garden.
Here are several “new to the market” perennials that you will find at local garden centers near you soon and can plant in your own home gardens.
Begonia ‘Sterling Moon’ from Plants Nouveau was bred by Ozzie Johnson. It is hardy to USDA zones 7-9 and prefers moist, but well drained soil; part to full shade.
This is a cane type begonia that is easy to grow in the ground and in containers.
The deep-green foliage has lovely markings and mint green flecking. Large, salmon pink flowers bloom all summer and into fall. For those in colder regions than zone 7, it makes a lovely potted plant that can be brought in and successfully grown as a houseplant.
The one plant I saw most folks taking photos of and asking about was Astilbe “Dark Side of the Moon.”
It is an interspecific hybrid bred from Walters Gardens and being marketed by Proven Winners.
This astilbe with dark foliage and purple flowers has near black leaves add interest all season with rosy purple flowers contributing a pop of color in mid-summer. It does best in full sun with added moisture. It will grow in part sun to part shade.
The show-stopper for me was Polemonium “Golden Feathers” (Polemonium pulcherrimum) from Darwin Perenials.
Have you ever seen a variegated Jacob’s Ladder like the one on Page 12? It was discovered as a sport of “Lambrook Mauve” and identified by Austrian plant breeders Plant Growers Australia Pty Ltd., Australia. Polemonium “Golden Feathers” has striking golden variegated foliage that keeps its brightness all season.
This unique Polemonium gives home gardeners more shade options. Plant it instead or next to your hostas.
Have you ever wanted to grow Joe-pye Weed but didn’t have the space for that big (10-plus foot high) plant? Well, a new cultivar of Eutrochium named “JoJo” is here to solve that problem. “JoJo” has double flowers of vibrant pink color. It is upright and relatively compact habit growing to about 4 feet high.
The stems mature to a dark maroon. This introduction was found as a chance seedling in Ottsville, Pa., in 2017 among other Eutrochium fistulosum growing in the nursery seed plots by Kind Earth Growers.
Finally, there is Rudbeckia “American Gold Rush.”
This Black-eyed Susan was introduced a few years ago and was named an All-America Selection as well as being voted the Perennial Plant of the Year 2022 by the PPA members.
This selection is superior to other rudbeckia varieties as it was bred for its resistance to Septoria leaf spot.
It has smaller foliage and shorter height than other rudbeckia varieties.
“American Gold Rush” has bright, golden-yellow flowers with black centers and arched petals. It blooms from July to September.
It was introduced by Brent Horvath of Intrinsic Perennial Gardens in Illinois.
(Editor’s note: Kathy Jentz is the Editor/Publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine and hosts the GardenDC Podcast. She is the co-author of “The Urban Garden: 101 Ways to Grow Food and Beauty in the City.” She can be reached at KathyJentz@gmail.com or www.washingtongardener.com.)