Harmony in the Garden Blog

Hooray for Heucheras! An interview with Terra Nova Nurseries

'Peach Flambe'Heucheras (aka: Coral Bells or Allum Root) are one of my favorite perennials in the garden, whether adding spots of color in the front of the border, massed together in drifts or nestled into a container.   I’d be lost if I couldn’t use these little treasures in my designs, as their foliage comes in just about every color imaginable, they reliably return year after year and they’re even somewhat deer resistant.

The folks at Terra Nova Nursery (located in Canby, Oregon) have long been regarded as some of the top heuchera breeders in the country, introducing us to some of the most amazing heucheras one can find. Yes, they breed other plants as well (echinacea, hellebores and tiarellas to name just a few), but it’s the heucheras that get my blood racing!'Southern Comfort' in skinny space

To delve a little further into the ins and outs of incorporating heucheras in your own garden, I interviewed both Dan Heims (the President of Terra Nova) as well as one of the company’s premier heuchera breeders, Janet Egger (who is also a trial plant manager, patent writer and manager of Terra Nova). Between the two of them I don’t think there’s a stone left unturned!


……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..'Sweet Tart' photo by Terra Nova

What are some of your favorite new heuchera introductions for 2013?

Janet: ‘Sweet Tart‘ and ‘Blondie‘ are very popular for small containers and as patio and house plants. These are in the Little Cuties™ series. They bloom and bloom and bloom! Heuchera ‘Creole Nights‘ for its large glossy black leaves. Heuchera ‘Fire Alarm’ with its amazing, large leaf red foliage. It took a long time to breed a strong plant with foliage that stayed this red.

Dan: I have to add ‘Sugar Berry‘ from the Little Cuties™ series – astounding, long-lasting purple color!NewBar

'Lime Rickey' heuchera copyWhy does it seem that some varieties of heuchera are fantastic in the garden for 1 to 2 years, then they slowly disappear never to be seen again, save for one or two sad little leaves?

Janet: This is usually due to grower error. They have sited or planted the plant incorrectly. Heuchera need to be planted high in halfway decent soil. They need good drainage. They need the correct amount of light.

Dan: A few hours of morning sun is best. If these conditions are met, they are very long lived.



Heuchera 'Southern Comfort'What makes some heucheras more heat and humidity tolerant than others?

Janet: Generally, it’s the parents in the breeding line. The heuchera sold today come from species that grow from all over the US and into Canada. Heuchera with strong H. villosa or H. americana breeding tend to do great in heat and humidity. Many botanic gardens have test gardens where you can look up what grew best in your area.

NewBar'Cherry Cola' photo by Terra NovaWhat are some varieties that have the most colorful and sturdiest blooms?

Janet: Heuchera ‘Paris‘ is still the best for flowers. It blooms all spring through fall. Heuchera ‘Cherry Cola‘ is great for foliage and flowercolor. It’s a great plant. Heuchera ‘Bella Notte‘ has almost black leaves with lovely large pink flowers.NewBar

'Chocolate Ruffles' and Sedum What are some of your favorite ways to use heucheras in the garden?

Janet: Heuchera are so versatile. They have such a wide range of plant size, leaf size, leaf colors, leaf types. That is what makes them so fun to breed. They look great in containers, as border plants, and in mass. They work great as an understory plant for shrubs.

NewBar'Paprika' photo by Terra NovaWhat are some of your personal favorites?

Janet: ‘Spellbound‘ is my new top favorite garden heuchera. It has a large habit and leaves that are silver to silver purple. Beautiful habit year round. Heuchera ‘Delta Dawn‘ is an impressive plant and performer as well.

Dan: Heuchera ‘Paprika‘ for me!NewBar'Peach Flambe' with magenta coloringMany of my clients are surprised that lots of varieties have drastically different colors on the undersides of their leaves, providing unique opportunities to create interesting color echoes in the garden bed.  What are some of your favorites for this purpose?

Janet: ‘Berry Marmalade‘ and ‘Ginger Peach‘. Also ‘Sashay‘ is the classic for this with its ruffled leaves that are olive green on top and purple underneath.NewBar'Solar Eclipse' Photo by Terra NovaWhat are the main differences between heucheras and heucherellas?  I know heucherellas are bred with tiarellas, but why would someone seek out one over the other as they often seem so similar?

Janet: Heucherella grow well in a wider range of conditions. They grow better than Heuchera in the heat and humidity of the south. They also have the advantage of having different shaped and marked leaves.

Dan: They can be much more lobed or have dark centers near the veins, all depending on what look the parent had.NewBar

'Amethyst' and 'Plum Pudding'Now that we’ve been bitten by the heuchera bug, what’s the best way for us to find these beauties?

Janet: Your local nursery and the Terra Nova website: www.terranovanurseries.com, which has a map of the US that can be clicked on to find a vendor in your city or state. Mail order sources are also listed.NewBar

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  • My wife and I absolutely love the Cherry Cola Heucheras. In the fifth picture (next to the question: What makes some Heucheras more heat and humidity tolerant than others?) you show them with a row of plants that look similar to Dazzleberry Sedum. What is the name of those plants? We’d like to do something like that in our small front yard.

    Thank you for your assistance.

    • Hi R – those succulents are some of my very favorites: echeveria imbricata (otherwise known as hens-n-chicks). They love growing in that difficult spot with little irrigation and half-day sun and multiply like crazy once they’re established. Thanks for stopping by! – Rebecca

  • My Mom would jump for joy to see what has happened to “coral bells” over the years! Dan has a great book called, what else, Heucheras and Heucherellas…Good place to see some pictures, but doesn’t have all the latest introductions. By the way, what is the name of that fabulous succulent by the walk?

    • Isn’t that true, Jo? My grandmother loved the old-fashioned green coral bells with the red flowers and would be shocked (and delighted) to see all the colors they now come in. And you’re right about the book – it’s probably the best one I’ve seen on the topic. That succulent is just a common echeveria imbricata (hens n chicks) that I’ve had for years and years. I’ll be happy to give you a few next time I see you!

    • Hi David! These are just a small, small sampling. Every year it seems there’s more and more colors available. Love, love, love them! Though I’m not sure how well they’d do in your area….

  • I agree with you, Rebecca… I’d be lost without those amazing leaves in both my containers and gardens. Thanks for the interview with Terra Nova, it was very timely since I’m working on ideas and designs for 2013. So many possibilities!

  • Thank you Rebecca…gorgeous photos.
    Which variety is the variegated one? I have never seen that and absolutely must have it!

    • Sorry, Lisa – I think my ‘tags’ weren’t working. They should be fixed now. The one you like is Heucherella ‘Solar Eclipse’ – gorgeous, isn’t it?


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