Each year brings new varieties of shrubs and perennials to the market, sometimes in dizzying numbers. It’s confusing for a new gardener who wonders which variety to choose when starting a perennial border. I think the right approach is to ask other gardeners which plants do best in your area, to visit them on open garden days and, if you’re an experienced gardener, to stick with what’s done well for you but keep an eye out for an addition that may offer something your favorite selections don’t.

Looking at new arrivals in shrubs, the trend among plantsmen to breed smaller and tidier versions of old-fashioned varieties continues, targeting consumers with limited garden space. Some of my own favorite old-fashioned varieties are among them. I grew up in a time when blowy, shaggy shrubs were the fashion: yards were hedged with messy forsythia, mock orange, bridal wreath, weigela and the like. Some of the new varieties don’t have the elegance of their forbearers, but at least you can enjoy them in a smaller garden. Mock orange, for example, takes up a lot of space but is rich with nectar and attracts butterflies. As the “mock” in its name suggests, it’s not a true orange, but the citrusy smell of its blossoms inspired the common name. If you’d like to welcome a mock orange into your garden, “Illuminati Tiny Tower” is a new twist on the larger, messy, old-fashioned favorite. Selected for its narrow, columnar growth habit and unique four-sided “tower” effect, Illuminati Tiny Tower blooms in early summer with hundreds of fragrant white flowers along its upright branches. Since it’s a dwarf variety that only grows to four feet high and two feet wide, you can include it in any garden border without it taking over. Yet, it still has all of the good qualities of a regular mock orange bush. It’s deer-resistant, drought-tolerant and has those fragrant white flowers that resemble orange blossoms.

Weigela, another old-fashioned favorite, can grow to six feet in height, but there has been a dwarf variety of this spring bloomer around for a while now, the “My Monet” series. The newest in the line is “My Monet Purple Effect,” with variegated foliage in hues of cream, green, and pink, layered with a cast of purple.While the new offering shares the same dwarf habit and neat, variegated foliage of the original My Monet weigela, it’s said to be exceptionally strong flowering and a bit faster growing, with foliage that looks good right up until frost. It also flowers more and for a longer period and is more sun- and heat-tolerant. This is definitely not your showy old-fashioned shrub, but it does offer those beautiful blossoms, with prettier foliage. It’s so small and compact it can even be grown in containers, which is good news for terrace or patio gardeners. Out in the border, it’s deer-resistant, which is always a good recommendation for those with predator issues.

If you’re a fan of euonymus alatus because of its rich autumn color, you already know it can grow to more than 10 feet in height. The dwarf “Little Moses” is just a fraction of that size, perfect for small spaces in the landscape, but still with showy fire-engine red color and also attractive to birds.

One of my favorite old-fashioned perennial plants is dicentra, or bleeding heart, but while I love it in its bloom period, I don’t like the leggy stems that hang on way too long afterwards. Dicentra “Pink Diamonds” is an alternative to this, an alpine-type bleeding heart. Not to be confused with your traditional bleeding heart, it’s a full-sun plant and will not survive in shade or overly wet conditions. Unlike the old-fashioned bleeding heart, flowering continues throughout the season. The flowers open to light pink and ultimately have a two-toned appearance. The foliage reaches 12 to 16 inches high and spreads to 18 inches across. If what you love about old-fashioned bleeding heart is its elegant, slender, arching stems with heart-shaped pendants, you won’t be impressed with the clumpy blossom habit of “Pink Diamonds”; so while the long-lasting foliage and bloom of the new variety is a compensation, you don’t want to give up on the original. Why not have both?

Echinaceas, or coneflowers, are a staple of most Maine perennial borders and the poster child for native plant enthusiasts. Breeders have introduced many new colors to their lines, which make a good alternative to the pinky-purple originals. Forgive the names, but “Orange You Awesome” has brilliant tangerine blooms with dark cones, while “Yellow My Darling” comes in deep yellow. “Sombrero Salsa Red” has scarlet flowers with a contrasting orange cone in summer. As with all coneflowers, you’ll see lots of visiting birds if you leave some spent seed heads for winter interest.