Tag Archives: Joy Creek introductions


Among the plants that Joy Creek Nursery is introducing in 2012 are two perennials that we found as seedlings in our gardens – one a helenium, one a geranium. We have enjoyed them both immensely.

Helenium ‘Tijuana Brass’ PP22346 has a long history. We found it at least 15 years ago and fostered it until we could determine its merits. Plantsman David Culp visited our garden not many years later and was taken with this particular helenium. David noted the large size of the flowers and the fact that the foliage on our seedling looked fresh and green while the stems of the other named cultivars of heleniums looked naked. (Many cultivars suffer from this “bare-legged” appearance.) We monitored the plant for several more years and finally offered it to Sunny Border Nursery in Connecticut for trialing. They trialed it and then sent it to Peter zur Linden, a helenium authority in Germany, for trial. His judgment was that it was superior in all ways with a vigor and size he had not seen before. Sunny Border Nursery helped us with the patenting process.

In the garden at Joy Creek Nursery, ‘Tijuana Brass’ is tall and upright in habit. It produces golden yellow ray-flowers that are larger than those of most named cultivars and maintains the foliage on its lower stems throughout the blooming period. The central cone of the flowers is golden brown. The flowers are favored by plant pollinators and, when in bloom from mid-August to the end of September, they are abuzz with a variety of native bees as well as honey bees. Standing from 4 to 5 feet, this helenium makes a glorious backdrop to the summer border.

Geranium ‘Pure Joy’ has a much shorter history. Found six years ago in our clematis display beds, this geranium caught our attention from the moment it bloomed because of the pristine appearance of its flowers. We grow other white-flowered forms of geraniums but none of their flowers are as pure as those of this seedling. The whiteness of the filaments and the near-white of the cream colored anthers all combine to enhance the effect. Even the creamy buds are attractive. The leaves betray the parentage of this seedling, looking like those of G. sanguineum. In habit, this perennial is low and mounding. We have also been impressed with the length of its bloom time. With a little dead-heading, it will flower throughout the summer.

We hope that all of our new plants enrich your garden experience


Joy Creek Nursery has long relied on “garden penstemons” to brighten up our mixed borders. These versatile perennials come in so many vibrant colors and bloom over such a long period of time that it is hard to imagine our gardens without them. Their tubular flowers are large and showy, just the right size to house sleeping bumblebees overnight. Most cultivars have flowers with relatively wide lips surrounding their flower tubes. The lips consist of three lobes in the lower lip and two in the upper. Over the years we have selected and introduced seedlings that have unusual colors or markings.

Usually, the throats of penstemon flowers are streaked with dark guide lines that are possibly used to guide pollinators in search of the nectar at the base of the flowers. However, occasionally, during our evaluations, we have come upon odd-ball seedlings that have almost pure white throats that contrast sharply with the color of the surrounding lips. Some of our first penstemon introductions, a series which we called the Kissed Series, featured just such a combo of white throats and colorful lips. The series included ‘Cerise Kissed’, ‘Violet Kissed’, ‘Coral Kissed’, and ‘Wine Kissed’ which we released over a short period of time in the late 1990’s.

Recently our attention has been drawn back to the Kissed Series because of an extraordinary set of new seedlings that we grew. Among these seedlings were several plants with very white throats surrounded by lips in colors we hadn’t seen before.

The first of those seedlings to catch our eyes had flowers with vibrant rose-colored lips. The large flowers measured more than 1 ½ inches across. What was also pleasing was the composition of these flowers on the stem. Forty or more flowers and buds were arranged in a loose triangle with the flowers facing outward. Eventually, we decided to add this to the Kissed Series and named it ‘Rose Kissed’. It stands between 27 and 30 inches tall with a 15 inch spread.

One of its sisters was also very exciting. The arrangement of her flowers was similar to those of ‘Rose Kissed,’ however this seedling had brilliant scarlet lips. At first we worried that this plant was too similar to the classic cultivar named ‘Scarlet Queen’, but after growing our plant out in the garden, we discovered that it had larger, wider flowers. Also, the flowers of this new selection had a “quirk,” something that gave them “attitude.” Its flowers had very broad lower lobes and much smaller upper lobes. These upper lobes sometimes had a twist or tip to them that gave them a jaunty “devil-may-care” appearance. It is curious details like this that make for interesting plants. The color of the lips was so bright we named it ‘Red Hot Kissed’. It reaches about 24 inches in height and 15 inches in width.

Care for both of these plants is the same. Both like full sun. Although they require regular water, they do not like wet sites and require good drainage. They also resent cold winter winds. We recommend a sheltered site. In milder climates, these form attractive, evergreen shrubs. Cut back spent bloom spikes to encourage new growth and repeat bloom. Penstemons will bloom until first frost in the Pacific Northwest. Their September and October blooms complement the changing colors of the autumn garden while their lingering November flowers serve as bright spots in the early winter gloom.


Joy Creek Nursery has introduced more than thirty of its own cultivars since it began in 1992, but, despite the fact that we have a large collection of clematis and have been fortunate to introduce many selections from other hybridizers, we have never released our own clematis. This year, 2012, changes that with the introductions of Clematis ‘Dark Dancer,’ Clematis ‘Pink Pinwheel’ and Clematis ‘Pagoda Pink.’

Clematis ‘Dark Dancer’ has had a long history. We discovered it sixteen years ago as a seedling in our stock fields. The four tapered sepals of its rich violet flowers were darker than we had ever seen on an alpina-type Clematis. They nodded at the ends of amazing purple black stems. This was a special plant, we felt, but we wanted assurance that it was unique enough to release. We propagated it, protected it and kept it alive in various sizes of pots for more than a decade while we evaluated it. Finally, as part of the celebration of our 20th Anniversary, we decided to make it available to home gardeners.

‘Dark Dancer’ is an April bloomer, often flowering during our rainiest days in the Portland area. The long sepals can measure up to 2 ½ inches long. A sparse interior skirt of “staminodes” is white and blends with the white filaments and pale yellow anther connectives. The burgundy buds are narrow and tapering.

In the Pacific Northwest, good morning light with relief from the afternoon sun in summer ensures a healthy plant. Prune lightly after the spring bloom if you want to promote a second, more modest flush of bloom. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the attractive silvery seed heads. Because it blooms on wood produced during the previous year, do not prune it in the spring. This is a deciduous plant.

Clematis ‘Pink Pinwheel’ derives from a different species of clematis – Clematis integrifolia. This is an herbaceous species that does not climb but generally reaches 2 to 3 feet in height and flowers sequentially down its stems. Early in our history, we were inspired by the work of the Japanese clematis hybridizer Kazushige Ozawa who selected such plants as Clematis ‘Andante’ and Clematis ‘Hanajima’. We were fortunate to receive many unnamed seedlings from him. One of them has huge leaves and flowers and is double the height and size we usually associate with this species. We have used it as a seed source and raised countless seedlings from it. This is the first of eight that we ultimately planted out in our test garden. The blooms of ‘Pink Pinwheel’ have four tapered sepals that recurve and twist giving the flowers a real pinwheel appearance. The flowers face slightly outward away from the plant. There is light bronzing in the young leaves.

Its sister Clematis ‘Pagoda Pink’ is very different in appearance. Where the flowers of ‘Pink Pinwheel’ have a windswept look, those of ‘Pagoda Pink’ are contemplative, hanging downward. Its sepals recurve upward mimicking the roofline of a pagoda. Their rosy pink coloration is complimented by bronze young foliage which is present throughout the growing season. We cut this back by half after the first round of bloom and had a wonderful late bloom with lots of eye-catching bronze foliage.

Ultimately, both these plants reach about 2 ½ feet in height in our garden. We keep them upright by tying them loosely with garden twine to a sturdy stake apiece. If you do so, the plants will be a little more than a foot wide. If you let them sprawl, they will be much wider. Because they are herbaceous, cut them back to a few inches from the ground during the winter any time after a hard freeze.

These are the first of many new clematis that we hope to share with you.