Arrow-right Camera


Friends of Manito have plants for you

A new echinacea cultivar called “Secret Passion” will be available at The Friends of Manito plant sale next Saturday. (Susan Mulvihill)
A new echinacea cultivar called “Secret Passion” will be available at The Friends of Manito plant sale next Saturday. (Susan Mulvihill)

Janis Saiki knows a great plant when she sees one. As plant manager for The Friends of Manito, she is very particular about the selection offered at their plant sales.

“I make sure each plant is hardy to our zone and look for those with outstanding attributes so the plants will be worth their real estate in the garden,” Saiki said.

Next Saturday, The Friends of Manito will hold their spring plant sale (see information box for details). The money raised will help fund the restoration of Mirror Pond in Manito Park.

Saiki recently shared some of her favorite selections:

For bold foliage that loves the sun, she suggests Rheum palmatum var. tanguticum, an ornamental Chinese rhubarb. Saiki likes the 4-foot-wide leaves and 6-foot-tall flower spikes, and that it isn’t bothered by pests or disease.

“When the plants emerge in the spring, the leaves are blackish purple with undersides that are a deep, red velvet,” she said.

One of Saiki’s favorite vines is Ampelopsis brevipedunculata “Elegans,” which is a Porcelain Berry Vine.

“Less aggressive than species Porcelain Berry, it can take part shade or full sun and will grow 15 feet tall,” she said. “It has pinkish stems and grape-like foliage that is wildly splashed with creamy white. The flowers give way to chartreuse, pink and blue fruit with burgundy speckles.”

If you’re looking for a shade-loving perennial, Persicaria amplexicaulis “Golden Arrow” makes a great choice.

“It has bold, arrow-like foliage that is chartreuse,” said Saiki. “It glows in the shade and prefers average to moist soil. From midsummer to frost, it forms beautiful red flowers that are a nice contrast against the foliage.”

A stunning new echinacea, or Coneflower, is “Secret Passion.”

“The double peach flowers made my jaw drop,” Saiki said. “We’ll have 10 different Coneflowers at the sale. They can take periods of drought and make great winter interest with their seedheads. They’re deer-resistant, too.”

A choice groundcover is Veronica prostrata Goldwell “Verbrig.”

“It’s an evergreen that is densely mat-forming,” she said, “with gold-edged leaves and short spikes of blue-purple flowers.”

Peonies are a particular favorite of gardeners.

“We’ll have 11 different types of herbaceous peonies available,” Saiki said. “Their foliage emerges in springtime as burgundy, then there are beautiful flowers in June. There is lush foliage all summer and burgundy foliage again in the fall.”

For flowers that look great in arrangements, she recommends hydrangeas: “We’ve got six different types available. All bloom on new wood or on a combination of new and old wood so they will always be reliable bloomers.”

Saiki loves elderberry shrubs, Sambucus, because of their colorful foliage.

“They’ll grow 10 feet tall and are adaptable to moisture conditions,” she said. “S. racemosa ‘Eva’ Black Lace is a great substitute for a Japanese maple: they are much stronger for tough conditions and you have the same lacy foliage.

“ ‘Sutherland Gold’ has fernlike, golden yellow leaves and S. nigra ‘Madonna’ has variegated leaves.”

Her favorite evergreen perennial is Campanula “Blue-eyed Blonde.”

“It has brilliant yellow foliage in the wintertime,” Saiki said. “In the summer, it changes to chartreuse with blue-purple bellflowers. It likes full sun to part shade, is pest-free and deer-resistant.”

For a list and photos of the plants available at the Friends of Manito sale, go to

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at Visit her blog at susansinthe for more gardening tips and information.