What Really Worked: My Favorite New Plant for 2013

What Really Worked: My Favorite New Plant for 2013

I love to try different plants every year — sometimes it's trial plants sent to me by plant companies, and other times it's something I picked up at my local IGC (Independent Garden Center). This year, however, it was simply a new variety of one of my favorite plants, sedum. It's Sedum mexicanum 'Lemon Ball.'


'Lemon Ball' is a stunning chartreuse color with fine needle-looking foliage with yellow bloom spikes in late spring. It grows 6-8" tall, but has a wonderful spreading habit to 18" or so. It's drought resistant, deer and rabbit resistant, takes full sun to part shade, is evergreen and hardy to -40 degrees (not that we'd ever see that kind of temperature here in Austin!). It's the bright color that attracted me at first — it looks incredible when paired with darker foliage like purply-browns or burgundy. But it performed so well in both my garden (above) and my clients' gardens this summer that it quickly became my go-to plant addition in nearly every garden I designed. In our area of extreme heat and severe drought, 'Lemon Ball' works well in areas of the garden that get some afternoon shade, although it took some full sun conditions fairly well, too. A few of my friends thought it would be fun to write about our favorite new plants for the year — these friends are gardeners, garden writers and garden designers from all over the country, so their plant pics may work for you, too — wherever you are! Simply click on the image to learn about each of my friends' favorite new plant on their own blogs. Steve Asbell is a garden writer and illustrator who blogs about tropicals, houseplants and cooking with food from your garden — check out his site at The Rainforest Garden. Steve lives in the Jacksonville, FL area and will be releasing his first book, "Plant By Numbers: 50 Houseplant Combinations to Decorate Your Space" (Cool Springs Press), due out next March. Steve is a newer friend, and is kind of like a younger brother whom I am so proud of. His favorite new plant is a basil variety called 'Siam Queen,' and you can read about it on his blog today.


Kylee Baumle is my awesome co-author of "Indoor Plant Decor: The Design Stylebook for Houseplants" (St. Lynn's Press, April 2014)--she lives in Haviland, OH and is a freelance garden writer and photographer extraordinaire. Kylee gardens on a whole acre like I do, and has a ton of cats and 6 chickens, and is one of my best friends. Like, ever. Read about her favorite new plant, Coreopsis 'Center Stage' on her blog, Our Little Acre.


Steve Bender is the senior garden writer for Southern Living magazine, and writes about plants as The Grumpy Gardener on Southern Living's blog, The Daily South. I started reading Steve's articles in Southern Living years ago as a young mother and inexperienced gardener, and he is one of my biggest influences as a garden writer, so it seems almost surreal that he is a good friend of mine today! Except for when he's grumpy, and then I'm kind of over him. Steve's favorite new plant this year is a coleus, Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Kong Jr.' which did great in his Hoover, Alabama garden.


Christina Salwitz is a garden writer and author, garden coach and garden designer in Renton, WA, where she writes on her blog Personal Garden Coach. Christina was one of the first people I met in the garden writing world several years ago, and I am delighted to call her a good friend. She and her co-author Karen Chapman just released their first book, "Fine Foliage" (St. Lynn's Press), this past winter. Christina's favorite pick of the season is Stokesia laevis 'Peachie's Pick.'


 Helen Yoest is a Raleigh, NC-based garden writer, author, garden scout for several magazines and a field editor for a number of other magazines — I don't think she sleeps at all. I love Helen's sense of humor and earthiness, and it shows in her writing. She is busy writing a new book with St. Lynn's Press called "Plants with Benefits" due out next year — any book about aphrodisiac plants sounds good to me! Helen's pick of the season is Dahlia 'Pooh' and you can read about it on her blog Gardening With Confidence.


Chris Tidrick makes his living outside the garden, but he's a talented garden writer, blogger and photographer whom I am proud to call friend. Chris is a deep thinking, philosophical buddy of mine that I met a couple of years ago at the IGC trade show — I love his garden photography and the twinkle in his eye. Chris writes about gardening, plants and his thoughts about nature and the world around him at his blog From The Soil in Champaign, IL— click on the photo below and learn about his new favorite plant this year, Gazania 'New Day Bronze.'


Shawna Coronado is a force of nature — she writes and speaks about organic gardening, vegetable gardening, eco-everything, low cost menus and how one person can make a difference in the world around them. She is smart and super funny, hospitable and a straight-shooter, and a dear friend. Check out her blog Shawna Coronado and she'll tell you about the plant that did the best for her this season, Tropaeolum majus 'Alaska Variegated' in her suburban Chicago garden.


Carolyn Binder and I met online a little over a year ago, but just met in person this past spring -- and I can't even imagine ever not being friends with her! Her wicked sense of humor and deep kindness make her so lovable, and I am terribly envious of her garden writing and photography skills. Carolyn writes about gardening and food on her blog Cowlick Cottage Farm in Monticello FL, and her new plant love is Gardenia jasminoides 'Jubilation.'


What were your surprise plants this year in the garden? What did so well for you that you can't wait to plant it next year? Tell us about it -- maybe we'll plant it in our gardens, too!

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  1. says

    Dear sweet BFF Jenny,

    Thank you for showing a plant that I can grow up here in the frozen tundra that is Ohio in winter. I love sedums of all kinds and will look for this one! If I can’t find it, sedums are so tough, you can just grab a hunk of yours and send it to me in a padded envelope! 😉



  2. says

    I tried ‘Lemon Ball’ sedum this year too, and strangely it didn’t perform for me at all. It looked great until about midsummer (part-shade conditions, potted), and then it just kind of shriveled up and died back. I’m hopeful it’ll come back when the weather cools off, but we’ll see. I’m disappointed, especially as I read that it did so well for you right here in Austin. Weird, huh?

  3. says

    Considering that I inspired your career, I’m just not feeling the love right now, Ms. Peterson. Please tell me where I may get that sedum where I live, whether deer will eat it, and can it be substituted for lemon in tea.

  4. says

    Must. Have. Plant. I love the way sedum feel. Touching it is an unexpected surprise to we gardeners who are used to smooth leaved hostas, heucheras, and the like. Deer and rabbit resistant makes this an extra wonderful plant.

    Also – love the yellow cement block. Terrific idea! Thanks for all your nice words.


  5. says

    Pam, I had a couple that didn’t too too well, but most did. Like most plants, some just won’t do well for no good reason.

    Steve–no, deer don’t like it, google it in your area and try it yourself in some tea. Geez, some people expect such hand-holding just because they made you want to have the career you do.

    Shawna and Helen–my neighbor Sherry suggested I paint some of the cinderblock fronts to add some punch to the wall, and I used some leftover paint from our chicken coop door to coordinate. It’s Sherwin-Williams “Fresh Persimmons,” a gorgeous tangerine color.

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