Recent breeding efforts with the native Heuchera villosa species have resulted in amazing new selections and are now offering an opportunity for you to add "sizzling" color to your gardens this year! Dramatic foliage colors, late summer blooming for the garden, vigorous habit, and much more tolerant of heat and humidity than other varieties ~ what more could Heuchera fans ask for?
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 8, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to yoru questions.)
Heuchera villosa is a native species of Heuchera found along the Southeastern states (New York to Alabama) and commonly known as "hairy alumroot." This species is easily distinguished by its very large, fuzzy 'velvet' foliage and its late blooming characteristic - possibly the latest-blooming Heuchera. The creamy white flowers appear by mid- to late-summer and sometimes continue blooming until the first frost. This type of Heuchera is very easy to grow and the new selections available offer numerous opportunities for adding extraordinary color in your garden. These new hybrid selections of Heuchera villosa have been bred specifically to tolerate the heat and humidity, a frequent obstacle for those of us who aren't able to provide the cooler climate that most Heucheras prefer. In addition, their increased sun tolerance and vigorous habit make them worthy candidates for any garden.
The remarkable revival of the Heuchera family in recent years can be attributed to the outstanding efforts of Charles Oliver (The Primrose Path), Dan Heims (Terra Nova Nurseries), and most recently French breeder Thierry Delabroye. Their significant gift to gardeners has resulted in the following exciting new cultivars of Heuchera villosa.
Thierry Delabroye has mastered the art of hybridizing the Heuchera villosa species.
Following the tremendous success of his introduction 'Caramel', he has continued to generate new selections which have inherited the strength, vigor and improved sun tolerance of the Heuchera villosa species.
You can read an interesting story about the discovery of 'Caramel' in this article.
The following Heucheras from Thierry Delabroye were introduced in 2006 and were available at most garden centers.
'Brownies', an extremely strong grower with huge crinkled leaves (almost 5 inches) of chocolate brown that curl up, revealing plum undersides. Forming a large dome-shaped mound, 'Brownies' is wonderful paired with gold or chartreuse plants in the garden.
A perfect companion, 'Citronelle', has exceptional bright chartreuse foliage with a tidy, compact habit. Although 'Citronelle' has the characteristic robust traits of this species, it does appreciate a little more protection from a strong sun exposure.
Possibly the largest dark foliage available, 'Mocha' forms massive mounds of foliage in the garden. Its copper-brown foliage darkens to nearly black, creating an interesting transition for this plant through the year.
Thierry Delabroye's ongoing breeding efforts have been rewarded with all these incredible new Heucheras which will be available in 2008.
'Beaujolais' with huge burgundy and silver leaves with darker veins. 'Christa' is another luscious peach colored Heuchera, similar to 'Caramel', whose foliage develops hints of silver as the season progresses. 'Encore' heralds spring with a deep rose color which quickly matures to a soft, lighter rose with an incredible silver overlay.
'Miracle' (shown in the introduction) is nothing short of a miracle with amazing foliage reminiscent of the colors only offered by Coleus! Emerging in spring with chartreuse leaves 'Miracle' develops brick red centers while retaining incredible bright gold edges. The foliage of 'Pinot Gris' transforms from shades of ginger in spring to hues of smoky rose and silver as it matures. 'Pinot Noir' offers another transformation in the garden with purple-black spring foliage developing a handsome silver pattern with dark veins. 'Pistache' is an extremely robust grower with extra large leaves of lime-green in the shade or a chartreuse color if given a location with more sun.
The last of Thierry Delabroye's introductions for 2008, 'Tiramisu', will more than likely be my favorite for the garden this year...not to mention it's my favorite dessert! The spring color displays deep red veins on chartreuse foliage developing a light silver overlay during the hot summer months. With the onset of cooler temperatures in fall the foliage takes on richer hues of deep red.
Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries is offering several new Heucheras to "Beat the Heat"  in his Southern Bell™ series which will include several hybrids of Heuchera villosa. 'Georgia Peach' has lush peachy-orange foliage with a silver-white overlay and changing to a deep rose-purple in fall. The rich cinnamon-peach foliage of 'Southern Comfort' develops a polished copper hue by fall. Another plant in this series, 'Alabama Sunrise', is actually a Heucherella and very similar in appearance to Heucherella 'Stoplight' with striking gold and red foliage. However, with the Heuchera villosa strain in its heritage, 'Alabama Sunrise' will undoubtedly outshine the extremely popular 'Stoplight'.
The following selections from Charles Oliver (The Primrose Path) have been available for several years, however they warrant inclusion in this article especially since they're two of my favorites!
'Frosted Violet' is the result of cross breeding the Heuchera villosa strain with Heuchera 'Silver Scrolls'. Its really unique foliage color prompted its own threadin the Heuchera and Friends Discussion Forum with the consensus being that the frosted plum foliage absolutely "glows"! In our gardens, 'Frosted Violet' is an impressive plant with vigorous growth and very tall cream white and pink flowers (up to 30") which bloom for an exceptionally long period.
With the introduction of 'Bronze Wave' in 2006, I was immediately captivated with its glossy, almost lacquered bronze foliage. I am inherently drawn to plants with burgundy, bronze or maroon hues and combine them with plants of green, gold and chartreuse foliage to create an intriguing pattern in the garden. 'Bronze Wave' hasn't failed me - with its large wavy, maple shaped leaves and robust habit, it has been an outstanding addition in the gardens and has performed beautifully in a container as well.
There are several excellent reference books available for anyone wishing to learn more about Heucheras.
Dan Heims joined Grahame Ware in writing the first extensive reference book for Heuchera ~ Heucheras and Heucherellas - Coral Bells and Foamy Bells. If you're an avid Heuchera fan, this book provides information on the history and background of the Heuchera family as well as "extensive listings of the choice listings and hybrids available commercially" [²]
My gardening journey began when I discovered perennials in the 80’s, prompting endless trips to the library to educate myself. In 1999, I left the dreary winters of Maine, moved to Virginia and fulfilled my dream of working with plants. Today, I’m a partner with my husband in the nursery he established in 1981. I’m known to test the limits of plants that “shouldn’t” grow in Zone 6. As a hopeless ‘Hortaholic’, I share the sentiment of Tony Avent, “I consider every plant hardy until I have killed it myself...at least three times”! I’m looking forward to sharing my gardening passion with everyone.