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Sizzling Plants for 2015
by Maria Zampini - January 2015

‘New’ is always exciting. You just have to check out these new plants – or are they really fashion statements – for 2015.

The latest and greatest new plants may jump off the pages of catalogs and magazines, but it’s only when we “try them on” in our own gardens that they can truly provide pleasure for all the senses.

Each August, the Farwest Tradeshow in Portland, Oregon, hosts the New Variety Showcase inviting breeders from around the world to debut their new plant introductions to the horticultural industry. This year the showcase provided a tantalizing preview of more than 52 sizzling stars destined for your local garden centers and mail-order nurseries, as well the talented hands of local landscape designers and growers. So let me give you a sneak preview of these up-and-coming hotties so you can dream of having them in your landscape this coming spring!

Best in Show was awarded to ‘Spring Fleecing’ white fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus ‘Spring Fleecing’). This upright, selected native has consistent, fragrant white flowers borne in large, fluffy panicles. This blooming beauty can tolerate not one, but two landscape problems; it withstands partly shaded areas as well as wet sites. This Zone 4 tree reaches 10 feet tall by 10 feet wide at maturity.

Three plants were named Award of Merit winners. If you’re like me, I’m always on the lookout for shrubs that can bring light and color to dark spots in the garden. The first merit winner, Lemony Lace elderberry (S. racemosa ‘SMNSRD4’) boasts chartreuse golden cutleaf foliage. It contrasts well against its smoldering, dark-leaved companion, Black Lace elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’). Best of all, these extremely hardy Zone 3 shrubs are deer resistant.

'Spring Fleecing' white fringe tree feature billowy white fringe tree features billowy white flower clusters that are intensely fragrant. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN)

Lemony Lace elderberry is a summer-flowering cutleaf shrub that produces red fruit in fall. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners

Another shrub that pairs well with Lemony Lace elderberry is First Editions Toscana barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘BailJulia’), which was the second merit winner. The fine yellow leaf margins in spring will echo and complement golden shrubs and perennials in the landscape. The red fall color darkens to burgundy on this deciduous Zone 4 shrub.

Last, but certainly not least, is the third merit winner, Mighty Velvet lamb’s ear (Stachys ‘Bello Grigio’), which is available through the HGTV Home Plant Collection. Its soft-textured, upright, silver-white leaves are stunning paired with other brightly colored annuals and perennials in container combinations. Even though this lamb’s ear is considered a Zone 7 perennial, its penchant for being drought and deer tolerant earned it a place on my porch this summer. I planted it alongside an HGTV Home So Fierce! Fuchsia geranium in a deco container and they performed extremely well together.

First Editions Toscana barberry Photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

Mighty Velvet lamb's ear has elegant leaves that are soft to the touch. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN)

For those who like spicy and sassy colors, Sombrero Adobe Orange coneflower (Echinacea x purpurea ‘Balsomador’) is a Zone 4 perennial that dazzles with bright pumpkin-orange flowers during the heat of summer. Picking flowers for a garden bouquet prolongs the blooming period. When the petals fade, the seed-heads will provide food for birds.

Marley’s Pink Japanese snowbell (Styrax japonicus ‘JLWeeping’) is popular with the ladies once they get a whiff of the heady, cotton-candy fragrance of its light pink blooms. This Zone 5 weeping ornamental tree does well in small urban landscape settings, specimen container gardens and courtyards. If your significant other loves getting you roses for Valentine’s Day, I recommend that you ask him or her to give you this tree instead as a token of enduring love and infatuation. 

How can you resist anything that smells like cotton candy in summertime? Your can't; that's why you want Marley's Pink Japanese snowbell.
  Photo courtesy of the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN)

Echinacea Sombrero Adobe Orange is a hot spot of color in a mixed-perennial late-summer border. Photo by Ron Capek

Anemones provide a nice pop of color in the garden from late summer through early fall. Anemone Fantasy Cinderella (Anemone x ‘Cinderella’) produces single, baby pink flowers and reaches 18-24 inches tall. Now I’m attracted to anything with double flowers and anemone Fantasy Pocahontas (Anemone x ‘Pocahontas’) doesn’t disappoint with double bubblegum pink blooms. Both are Zone 5 hardy and will light up part-shade sections of your garden.

What woman doesn’t like sparkly jewelry? Well, we have two bright, jewel-toned ice plants that will add drama to any hot-and-sunny rock garden setting. Delosperma Wheels of Wonder Collection features Orange Wonder (D. nubigenum ‘WOWDOY3’) and Golden Wonder (Delosperma nubigenum ‘WOWD20111’). Succulent green leaves hide fanciful pinwheel-shaped flowers until they explode in a bountiful profusion late spring to fall. A Zone 5 spreading ground cover, delospermas have a low growth habit of 6-8 inches tall by 24 inches wide.

Who can resist a flourescent lipstick-colored hydrangea? I can’t! Electric Rouge hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘KOLMARU’) is a head turner when this Zone 5 shrub struts her stuff in the landscape. She reaches 5 feet tall and wide and produces enough flowers for a gorgeous bouquet throughout the summer.

One of the most sought after “wow” plants right now are the hybrid foxgloves. Foxlight ‘Ruby Glow’ foxglove (Digitalis x hybrida ‘Ruby Glow’) has ruby-pink flower spikes with a golden-yellow throat and blooms all summer. Even though this is a Zone 7 plant, it is an absolutely stunning patio container plant. It is also perfect for a shady, secret garden spot when treated as an annual in northern climates. This series has two additional colors: ‘Rose Ivory’ and ‘Plum Gold’, so you can pick the shade that tickles your gardening fancy.

Electric Rouge hydrangea Photo courtesy of the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN)

Grab a camera! When Foxlight ‘Ruby Glow’ foxglove is in bloom, it’s worth a post on social media. Photo by Ron Capek

Shasta daisies with frilly British attitudes – that’s the Realflor Collection, which includes ‘Real Charmer’, ‘Real Galaxy’ and ‘Real Glory’ (Leucanthemum superbum cvs.). These Zone 5 tough performers can rebloom in the fall when cut back after summer flowering. Ranging in shades of yellow to white, they are eye-catching in containers, mixed garden borders or gracing your table in a mixed floral bouquet. My personal favorite is ‘Real Galaxy’, because its thin white petals go every which way – that kind of reminds me of my naturally curly hair!

For more information and photos of all 52 plants featured in the 2014 New Varieties Showcase, visit farwestshow.com/vnvs.shtml.

New Tasty Edibles

The demand for edibles, be it vegetables, herbs or small fruit, is still on the rise with no slowdown in sight. The call for food you and your family can grow and pick right in your own backyard is a major gardening trend. It gives you confidence that you know where your food came from. But, if you’re ready to move beyond the traditional tomatoes and salad greens, consider container or landscape gardening with these ornamental edibles:

Lo-Hugger American cranberry (Vaccinium marcocarpon ‘Lohzam’) is a Zone 4 ground cover having multiple uses in the landscape. It can be planted with one of the two new pink blueberries listed below as an understory plant. It can be a spiller under a dwarf fruit tree grown in a large container for easy harvesting on your deck or patio. Besides its small fruit, its evergreen foliage turns a reddish-burgundy providing winter color.

Pink Popcorn blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum ‘MNPINK1’) is a very hardy, Zone 3, highbush blueberry, which bears pink berries that ripen early. It reaches 5 feet tall and wide. Pink Popcorn is self-fertilizing; if space is an issue, this is a great choice. It will, however, produce more berries if planted near another early-season fruiting variety for cross-pollination.

For a smaller variety with ever-changing foliage colors throughout the season, and to extend the harvest season, ‘Pink Icing’ blueberry (V. corymbosum ‘Pink Icing’) fruit ripens in midsummer. This Zone 5 edible shrub grows to 4 feet tall by 3 feet wide.

Lo-Hugger American cranberry is a prolific producer of red, vitamin-C-rich berries. Photos courtesy of the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN)

‘Pink Icing’ blueberry covers itself with pink, sweet, large berries in midsummer. Photos courtesy of the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN)

From State-by-State Gardening January/February 2015.


Maria Zampini is the owner of UpShoot LLC, which markets and licenses new plant introductions including LCN Selections. She is a featured writer in consumer magazines and horticultural trade journals, the co-author of Garden-pedia: an A-to-Z Guide to Gardening Terms (St. Lynn’s Press, 2015) and a nationally known speaker. Visit her website at upshoothort.com.


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