Aubrieta and Arabis are two early spring blooming perennials that BOTH go by the common name of Rock Cress. Both are evergreen perennials (foliage remains through the winter). Both bloom prolifically in shades of white, pink, violet and purple. The major physical difference between them is the size of the leaves. Aubrietas have a smaller, finer leaf while Arabis has a larger, more cut type of leaf.
In general, the leaves on these plants are a generic green. The early spring flower show is awesome, a bit of green in the winter (assuming it isn’t buried under snow) is great too but it’s a little boring through the summer. I’m not a fan of boring. As a result, I generally stick to the variegated-leaf varieties and thus enjoy 4 seasons of attractive foliage and flowers.
Variegated forms come with a green/white leaf form OR a green/gold leaf form. all shades of bloom are available on variegated varieties. Glover Nursery in West Jordan always has a good selection of varieties, including the hard-to-find ‘Red Variegated’ one above. I have found that even the variegated plants will do just fine in full sun for me. They are deer resistant and waterwise (meaning they are a lower water but not a no-water plant). I use either of these plants as a ‘backbone’ perennial in my mixed borders. What is a ‘backbone perennial’? Sounds like it OUGHT to be the subject of another post! In short, it is a plant good enough to be repeated through the garden as a ‘unifier’. You really can’t go wrong with either Aubrieta OR Arabis- especially the ones with great leaves!
This year I’ll be trying out the newest cultivar of Aubrieta- the Axcent series introduced by Syngenta. I have had the opportunity to see these in person and the flowers are at least double the size of standard Aubrieta blooms (I even photographed them but lost my photos in a computer crash- you’ll have to take my word for it!) One of our local growers will be offering them up this season so keep your eyes peeled and get to the nurseries early if you want to snag some! The growers claim that it will bloom larger (it does) and over a longer period of time than other cultivars- which remains to be seen but I’m excited to experiment.
Get your garden off to a lovely, early start. Low growing Aubrieta/Arabis are a great addition to the front of the border and will generally bloom with your tulips in April/May.