On Friday I used my lunch break to make a quick trip to a big-box retailer to get a spark plug for my lawn mower. It was a beautiful day, and after I found my mower supplies I succumbed to the magnetic pull of the garden area, where crowds of spring-intoxicated Minnesotans were giddily buying plants and supplies.
Impatiens, tomatoes, evergreens… ho hum, it was the usual stuff, though it all looked particularly gorgeous on this sunny day. I rounded an aisle and was stopped in my tracks by this:
Have you ever seen anything more gorgeous?
The tag identified it as Anemone “Harmony Blue.” I’d never seen an anemone with such large flowers. These were a stunning, velvety blue that looked almost like poppies atop ferny foliage. There was a “Harmony Red,” too, but it was the blue one that was the eye-catcher.
My internal gardening alarm went off almost at once. The tag said the plant was hardy to -30 degrees. Why hadn’t I seen “Harmony Blue” before? Why hadn’t I heard other gardeners talking about it? Was it brand new? I resisted an overpowering urge to throw six of them in my cart and instead snapped a picture and went back to work.
When I looked up the plant on the web, the information was all over the map. A few websites said it was indeed hardy to Zone 4, where the Twin Cities is, and several others said it was a Zone 5 plant, hardy further south. But the most thorough evaluation I found in the first couple dozen Google hits I got described “Harmony Blue” as a tender perennial bred from parents that are native to the Mediterranean, “a clue to its limited hardiness.” That page said “Harmony Blue” is usually grown as an annual. As a perennial, the site said, the plant is hardy to Zone 8.
Zone 8 is in Texas.
So be careful out there, gardeners. I’m not sure what the truth is about “Harmony Blue,” but I suspect these plants will never look as good again in Minnesota as they did fresh off the delivery truck from a greenhouse.
Of course, you never know. In the desire to try something new, I’ve pushed zones in my own yard, and have had some success with Zone 5 plants. But I do wish that some retailers better selected their plant stock to reflect local growing conditions, and that plant tags had better information. If “Harmony Blue” is really an annual in Minnesota, let’s just say so.
What do you think?