I took what I try very hard to make my annual trip to Arrowhead Alpines recently. By which I mean that I try very hard to go ONLY once a year, because I have yet to go without my bill somehow mounting into three figures. And that isn't because they are expensive -- prices are quite reasonable, they just have SUCH amazing stuff I can't resist.
If you don't know Arrowhead, you should. They are one of the great specialty rare plants nurseries in the US. They do mail order, so no matter where you live, you've no excuse not to browse their wonderful catalog, especially if you live in a cold climate. Unlike the tempting (but rarely hardy in Michigan) Plant Delights Nursery, Arrowhead is smack in the middle of zone 5, and their selection of plants for this climate is amazing. They have hardy versions of typically tender plants like agave, agapanthus, and gazania, and all kinds of other cool stuff.
This year I sampled some of their amazing primrose selection. Below are two of the Primula xpubescens 'Gigantea Select' I picked out. Their catalog says "Perhaps the best primula for Midwestern gardens, they laugh at summer heat, flowers are huge in a wide range of colors." With that recommendation, and these colors, how could I pass them up? If these perform as hoped, I'll be getting many more.
I also discovered a hosta I actually like! Like so much I couldn't pass it up. This little charmer is 'Pandora's Box' I bought a little pot, and easily pulled it apart into 20 (yes 20!) little divisions, which I spaced out to form a low mass in the front of the shade garden. They look a little sparse this year, but they should fill in next year.
On the subject of foliage for shade, I also couldn't resist getting another couple of their gorgeous Cyclamen hederifolium. They have a wide range of leaf types -- from mostly green to almost pure silver, but I like these intricately patterned ones best:
They have a mind-boggling array of Sempervivum (I've never counted, but I think there must be over a hundred varieties listed in their catalog, and more at the nursery itself) which are so charming and so easy I never leave without picking up a new one. This time it was this bright red variety called 'Mona Lisa.' I can't quite believe the color! I wonder if it will hold all summer?
I got oodles of other things... a hardy cymbidium (yes! I'm not kidding!), lots of campanula (I've finally promised myself I will stop ignoring that genus) and so much else -- but none of them are flowering or looking pretty at the moment, so I'll save them for another day. I'm also trying to talk myself into going back... there are geraniums I wanted, and... well, we'll see.