Spring is here! After a long winter, it’s finally time to garden. As usual, the Morris Arboretum Plant Sale will have a fabulous selection to satisfy all your planting needs. Unusual annuals, new perennial cultivars, fabulous woody plants and heirloom roses will make this Plant Sale one you won’t want to miss!
Annuals take a new twist this year with the addition of tropical foliage. Look for patterned bromeliads, exotically striped cordylines, and anthuriums with their heart-shaped leaves and long-lasting blooms. Add excitement to your summer plantings with something new!
Perk up window boxes, containers, and hanging baskets with this Miss. Large 3” creamy white blossoms are delicately edged in coral pink, with a hint of sunrise yellow suffusing the petals. Semi-trailing plants are well branched and lend themselves to container planting where you’ll enjoy the pendant blooms. Bright indirect light, good drainage, and warm summer temperatures make Miss Montreal a standout.
The best performing lavender variety for our area, ‘Phenomenal’ laughs at summer’s heat and humidity. Its silvery foliage forms uniform mounds to about 24”, topped by fragrant, oil-rich purple flowers that attract butterflies but repel deer and rabbits. Like other lavenders, ‘Phenomenal’ requires well-drained soil—think raised beds, gravel gardens, or containers. Use fresh or dried lavender wands to bring its calming scent into your home. In optimal conditions, lavender may be a perennial.
Even without pink flowers, ‘Mr. Henry Cox’ is a standout among geraniums. Scalloped leaves sport bands of reddish-orange, overlaid with gold and yellow, making quite an eye-catcher in the garden. Preferring full sun and well-drained soil, Cox will grow happily in the garden bed or container to 3’ with a shrubby form. Cuttings can be taken in autumn if you’d like Mr. Cox’s company over winter.
Called “the little black dress of horticulture,” ‘Stainless Steel’ is a tropical plant with wavy leaves mottled in shades of green with irregular silvery margins. The variegated foliage is a great foil for container combos—it looks great with everything. It shines in sun to part shade, and may throw an occasional pink flower, but its glamorous foliage is the main attraction. Growing up to 2’, Pseuderanthemum can be kept in your wardrobe as an overwintering houseplant.
This year at the perennials booth we will be featuring several native plants that will help you to help our pollinators. You may have heard that many of these important insects are in decline. One of the easiest things we can do to help is grow the plants that they need in our gardens. We have selected plants that are not only essential food for our pollinators (and their caterpillars!), but that also happen to be beautiful, unattractive to deer, and quite easy to grow.
Black cohosh or bugbane is a native medicinal plant that can be found in the woods from Maine to Georgia. This shade lover grows three to five feet high with tall, candle-like spires of fuzzy white flowers held above the deeply cut foliage. Blooming mid to late summer, black cohosh provides garden interest (and pollen!) later in the season. It is an excellent nectar plant for many pollinators, as well as a host plant for the Appalachian Blue and Spring Azure butterflies.
Although it is well known as a lovely, low-growing groundcover for shade, native wild ginger is also an important food source for the caterpillar of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly. Easy to grow even in dry shade, this plant is usually unpalatable to deer. Wild ginger will spread about 6 inches per year once established, and unlike many of our ephemeral native wildflowers, it does not go dormant until winter.
This native milkweed is not an aggressive spreader and makes a long-lasting cut flower. The large, rosy pink flowers emit a vanilla-like fragrance. An essential plant for swallowtail and monarch butterflies, it attracts fritillaries, hawk moths, skippers, and bumblebees as well. Milkweed blooms from June into August and prefers consistently moist or wet soil, but will perform nicely in average garden soils.
Our native dense blazingstar is an elegant staple in the butterfly garden. Vertical spikes bear purple-pink bottlebrush flowers in summer. An excellent garden performer, great as a cut flower, and a magnet for butterflies, bees, moths, and hummingbirds. Liatris prefers full sun and will grow three to five feet in moist or average garden soil.
Short-toothed mountain mint has dramatic silvery bracts surrounding dense clusters of light pink flowers. This native is an outstanding source of nectar for many types of butterflies, bees, and other thirsty pollinators. It will grow into a tidy, two to three foot mound, and blooms for months from summer into fall. This plant prefers full sun, but will do very well in part shade or woodland edge conditions.
An easy to grow, long-blooming native from the carrot family. This is an essential plant for many short- tongued insects who can easily reach the nectar in the small golden flowers. This delicate looking plant grows two to three feet with many umbels resembling a yellow Queen Anne’s lace. It is also a host plant for the black swallowtail caterpillar. It prefers full sun to light shade.
At this year’s sale we will have trees and shrubs to fit any gardener’s taste. Whether you have sun or shade, or dry or moist soils, there will surely be something to suit your needs. Among our selections are these staff picks, recommended by several of our gardens for their usefulness in our local area:
Chinese dogwood is a small, deciduous, flowering tree or multi-stemmed shrub with excellent ornamental value. This variety has slightly larger flower bracts and fruit, and larger, smoother leaves than the species. Abundant, white-bracted flowers bloom profusely in May, followed by edible red berries in summer, and then fall foliage in a showy orange-red. Kousa dogwoods generally have better disease resistance than our native flowering dogwoods, and have excellent resistance to anthracnose.
Dwarf globe Japanese cedar is a neat, rounded evergreen that provides year round color to the garden with its vivid green needles. It should reach 4’ tall by 4’ wide after about ten years, so pruning won’t be an issue, and deer won’t touch it! Check out our robust specimens on the Dwarf Conifer slope below the greenhouse.
The infamous Franklin tree was brought into cultivation by John Bartram, and is definitely one for the collector’s garden. It blooms in late summer with pure white flowers that have a bright yellow center, and its fall foliage is a striking red. This tree is worth babying when young to ensure success, and it requires moist, well-drained acidic soil.
We’ll have a selection of native trumpet honeysuckle this year. Blooming starts in May and continues throughout the summer on well-behaved vines, and the colors range from scarlet and orange to yellow. Plant one of these beautiful natives and hummingbirds will surely visit your garden.
Bright yellow flowers bloom a bit later on this magnolia, so it’s less prone to frost damage than some earlier types. Lois is an excellent, vigorous magnolia from the breeding program that developed 'Elizabeth,' and it will reach 20-30’ at maturity with a spread of 10-20.’
Joel bush cherry is both a highly ornamental plant and a great addition to the edible landscape. Pink flowers appear on this self-fertile plant that grows 4’ tall by 3’ wide, with fruit that ripens in late summer. These cherries can be used to make jam, jelly, pie, and juice. Joel also has good vigor and disease resistance.
American elders have long been valued for their medicinal and culinary uses, and this native cultivar was selected for its large, plentiful fruit. Ideal for making wine, jam, and pie, it’s also an important food source for birds. Large, flat white flowers arrive on this large shrub in June and July, followed by purple-black edible fruit in August and September.
This deer resistant shrub always impresses us with its unique maroon, magnolia-like flowers in April and May. ‘Hartlage Wine’ allspice was named after the extraordinary plantsman, Dr. J.C. Raulston and developed by Richard Hartlage. In the fall, the lustrous green foliage turns yellow. See for yourself just outside the Pennock Garden.
We’re offering cultivars of baldcypress and pond baldcypress, deciduous conifers that turn copper-orange in the fall before dropping their needles. While suitable for wet sites, they also grow very well in drier, upland soils. Growing 20’ to 60’ high by 5-15’ wide, these trees make a statement in the landscape. To see an example of both, check out two by the Swan Pond.
Whether you are a beginner looking to buy your first easy-care landscape rose, or an experienced exhibitor seeking award-winning blooms, we can help you find what you’re looking for. Our careful selection of beautifully performing plants range from classic, antique roses to the toughest, recently introduced hybrids. New roses feature top-performers from famous breeders such as William Radler and Meilland of France. Our antique selections include dependable roses such as ‘Blanc Double DeCoubert,’ which has reliably delighted gardeners for centuries. Let us help you navigate our selection—we are excited to help you find the perfect rose for your garden! Here is just a sampling of some of the roses that we are excited to offer this year.
This prolific shrub rose is perfect for beginners. Not only is it continuously covered with large white clusters of blooms throughout the season, but it can also last for years with little maintenance. It is coveted by rose lovers for its ease of care, intoxicatingly fragrant white blooms, beautiful fall hips, and dark glossy foliage.
A perfect example of what a Hybrid Tea should be: high-centered, velvety, strongly scented, with a great repeat. This rose likes warm climates best.
You would be hard pressed to find a better rose to carry the name of England’s beloved monarch than this American turning point in roses. This first and finest grandiflora rose adorns gardens all over the world with a profusion of pleasing pink buds and large blooms on long-stemmed clusters. This rose is a proven, persistent performer with lots of color.
This is a lovely rose that's always a great addition to any garden. Blossoms are a light-pink color with delicate-looking petals that have a wonderful rose fragrance. It blooms all summer, with large, colorful rose hips following the blossoms.
One of the best of the "Pavement Series" roses from Germany, which were selected for their small size and ability to grow in harsh conditions, this rose has very fragrant, purplish-red blossoms that are produced all summer. The blossoms are followed by attractive rose hips that turn dark red later in the season, adding lots of interest to the rose in the fall and early winter.
A very useful little shrub with graceful, spreading and fan-like growth, this rose features sprays of tiny, soft pink pompom flowers. It starts to flower late, then onwards, almost continuously. It is also tough, reliable, and disease-free.
Winner of several recent trials, Julia Child boasts clusters of golden yellow double-blooms and a strong anise to licorice fragrance. She is versatile enough for a cut-flower garden, container, bed, or border. Julia Child will bloom abundantly throughout the season—enjoy her for her old-rose form, free-flowering habit, and lovely buttery flowers.
Clematis are wonderful vines perfect for growing in containers, through trees, on a rose, or up a trellis. This year we will have the ever-popular assorted varieties of clematis 3.5-inch pots that are easy to carry, so you’ll want to stock up on a few! The colors range from white (Snow Queen) to various shades of purple (Bijou, Carnaby, Diamantina, and Filigree) to deep burgundy (Avant-Garde, Niobe). There is something for everyone and our selections will add interest to any and all gardens.
This year we are offering a great plant for your garden, plus many surprises from our surplus of native and exotic plants from wild-collected seed. Our featured dividend plant this year is:
This amazing fothergilla cultivar was found as a bud sport on a young plant of Fothergilla × intermedia 'Mt Airy,' an already fantastic fothergilla introduced by Michael Dirr. It was noticed because the leaves are blue, blue, blue. The leaves are quite glaucous—instead of green and glossy, they are covered with a gorgeous powdery-blue coating. The leaf shape is more round as well, and it has the same fragrant, white bottlebrush flowers in spring. But wait—there’s more! It produces glorious fall color of reds, oranges, and yellow. The best fall color develops from at least three hours of direct sun.
As usual, we will be offering a great selection of “Surprise Dividends” that will wow our members who relish the rare, unusual, and challenging. These plants are surplus material from our propagation trials, research, and seed collecting trips. We have limited quantities of each and they go fast, so come early for best selection.
Collectors Circle Members – Receive 3 dividend plants
Holly, Oak, Laurel Members – Receive 2 dividend plants
All other members – Receive 1 dividend plant
The Delaware Valley Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society will offer a wide range of rock garden plants. Rock garden plants provide a lot of bloom on a small plant. In addition, many of them have distinctive foliage that is ornamental for the full gardening season. Rock garden plants evoke the beauty of high mountain places, yet they can be quite practical for growing in small spaces or difficult areas.
We will be selling some particularly good varieties of some easy-to-grow plants, such as hen-and-chicks (Sempervivum), small sedums, and moss phlox (Phlox subulata). We will also offer some unusual plants that are new to the sale. For a list, visit The Rock Garden Society site.
A cobweb hen-and-chicks (Sempervivum arachnoideum cv) Photo by Uleli
Dalmatian bellflower (Campanula portenschlagiana 'Resholdt's Variety').
In addition to plants, we will be selling hypertufa troughs, which are durable, completely weatherproof containers suitable for displaying rock garden plants or other small plants. We will offer empty troughs as well as pre-planted troughs, which make a great gift.
The Rock Garden Society is open to anyone interested in rock gardening—or just in learning about a wider range of garden plants and techniques. The Delaware Valley Chapter meets monthly in Plymouth Meeting. It also holds workshops, garden tours, and members-only plant sales. For more information or to join, visit the chapter web site.
The Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society will again hold its annual Plant Sale at the Morris Arboretum this year. Outstanding varieties of large-leaf (elepidotes) and small-leaf (lepidotes) rhododendrons will be offered, as will azaleas, both evergreen and deciduous, and Kalmia (mountain laurels). The plants were selected for their colorful floral display and interesting plant forms and foliage. Native rhododendrons will be available for sale. All are hardy in the Delaware Valley.
Join the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society during the Plant Sale and you will receive a choice rhododendron. Membership in the society features an outstanding quarterly journal, access to annual and regional conferences, and an exciting seed exchange.
The chapter meets at Morris Arboretum with informative speakers, exhibits plants in formal displays at the Philadelphia Flower Show, and maintains a Plants for Members program to make rarely offered rhododendrons available to members. Visit the chapter’s website at gpchapterars.org.
R. mucronulatum ‘Cornell Pink’
Featured this year is the early spring blooming Rhododendron mucronulatum ‘Cornell Pink’. Dr. Henry T. Skinner, the first Curator of Morris Arboretum, selected and named this bright pink flowering form of the rhododendron species. The shrub is deciduous in winter and flowers before the leaves emerge to brighten our warming gardens.
The Arboretum is open as usual. Click here for hours.
Please note that weather conditions can change quickly, check back or call (215) 247-5777 before heading out for a visit.
Weather conditions may limit garden access to certain features even if the garden is open – please check the web site or call (215) 247-5777 for updates before visiting. Our visitors’ safety in the garden is our top priority. Therefore when inclement weather is predicted, we will make decisions about closing the garden accordingly.