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What do Midwestern gardeners do in winter? Some of them, called Snowbirds, go south and presumably garden there. Then there are those of us who sit by the fire reading catalogs and dreaming about what we will plant, if spring ever comes. Most of us just are searching for a new plant or two to perk up our garden wardrobe. Naturally, I think of it as “needing” a new garment for our spring closet.

There are fashions in plant and garden styles, just as there are in clothing and kitchen appliances. Perhaps in anticipation of the upcoming royal wedding, the dominant color of the newest garden plants for 2018 seems to be purple and more purple.

Each year, the perennial plant associations choose a plant of the year and the nominee for 2018 is Allium Milinnium, a truly beautiful purple globular ornamental that will thrive in full sun and bloom prolifically in later summer. Alliums grow from bulbs and the ornamental plant is treated as a perennial although the Allium cepa, or common onion, is usually harvested and replanted each growing season. Most alliums bloom in late summer or early fall and can add a color jolt to your garden.

I don’t yet have ornamental alliums in my garden, but if there was more room for sun plants I would certainly choose this one. This plant is a magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds, and I suspect that Alphie the squirrel and his relatives will ignore it, as they ostentatiously shun scallions, shallots, leeks and chives, all members of the onion family.

Not to be outdone, the association that chooses the annual of the year has named its plant of the year, a “supertunia” called Bordeaux. Yep, it is also purple, striated with cream, and seems perfectly suited to hanging baskets and patio planters. I am sure the birds, bees and butterflies will love this one too.

I have an accidental butterfly garden consisting of hanging baskets filled with red and purple fuschias and a variegated coleus, a butterfly bush and a few geraniums. It is accidental because I chose those plants only because I thought they would survive on the partially shaded north side of my house and then was charmed when the hummingbirds and monarch butterflies came to feed on them.

Another new cultivar for 2018, Heuchera, or Coral Bells, is called Black Pearl, which certainly looks purplish in pictures in the plant catalogs. It looks to me like a darker version of Palace Purple, which has been such a hit for the past several seasons.

Finally, there is the Landscape Plant of the Year, a Weigela named Spilled Wine, and it too is ….you guessed it, purple! If you want to learn more about trends in gardening, sign up for the SPRIG seminar coming up on February 17 at Lifespan center. For more information, call the University of Illinois Extension office in Charleston at 217-345-7504.

If you have other questions about your garden or landscape, feel free to contact a Master Gardener volunteer at the University of Illinois Extension office in Charleston at 217-345-7034. You can also check out the many horticulture webpages at the U of I Extension’s website by visiting http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/ . And be sure to like the Master Gardeners’ Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/ColesCountyMasterGardeners.

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