Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
January, 2008
Regional Report

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Among the new plants for 2008 is 'Pinky Winky', with long-blooming, bicolored flowers.

It's New! It's Wonderful!

One of the long-standing New Year's traditions for garden publications is presenting some of the plants that will be offered by catalogs and garden centers for the first time in the upcoming year. Far be it from me to break with such a custom. Besides, it's fun as a writer to get to pick and choose from among the many new offerings. The following is a totally arbitrary selection, but it's based on plants that are easy to grow and that bring something special to the garden. Over time, some of these will prove to be hits, while others will fade into obscurity. Still, it's fun to consider the possibilities.

Trees and Shrubs
Burgundy Hearts redbud (Cercis canadensis 'Greswan') - This variety might become a replacement for 'Forest Pansy' redbud because the leaves remain burgundy throughout the growing season.

Magical Green Fountain smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria 'Kolcot') - A compact grower reaching 6 to 8 feet tall and wide. The seashell-pink flowers have an extra-long blooming season and are borne on strong stems. Few things compare to smoke bush in early morning, with the sun glistening on the dew drops held by the flowers.

Hibiscus 'Summer Storm' - This 4-foot-tall and wide shrub has the darkest wine-purple, maple-leaf foliage of any hibiscus. Plants bear 8-inch pink flowers with a deep magenta eye from midsummer through early fall.

The interest in hydrangeas shows no sign of waning, at least from the perspective of the plant breeders. Some of the interesting introductions include Forever & Ever Together and Forever & Ever Peppermint hydrangeas; both are compact plants with flowers borne on both old and new wood. Most striking of the hydrangeas this year is Pinky Winky, a paniculata type of hydrangea like PeeGee. It grows 6 to 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide. The large, numerous flowers, are borne on strong stems, open white and darkening to pink, from midsummer until frost.

Mystical Beauty St. John's wort (hypericum) bears the usual bright yellow flowers in spring, but it's especially noteworthy for large red berries on the 3-foot plants in the fall.

Snow White Sensation mock orange (philadelphus) updates this old-fashioned favorite with its 2-inch, double, white, fragrant flowers that not only bloom in spring but off-and-on throughout the summer on the 5- to 6-foot-tall plants.

'Heatwave' agastache (Agastache mexicana) - Like other agastache, this one is drought-tolerant, especially once established. What's special is that it is attractive for a long period of time because after the flowers fade, the pink calyxes stay on the plant for months. Plants grow 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

'Emerald Mist' heartleaf brunnera (Brunner macrophylla) - Brunneras are one of the stars of the shade garden and 'Emerald Mist' looks to compete with the popular 'Jack Frost'. It has streaks of silver that connecting to form a silver collar around the perimeter of the leaf and a very light dusting of silver over the entire leaf surface.

'Flower Tower' giant tickseed (Coreopsis tripteris) - Want a perennial that makes a really big statement? 'Flower Tower' grows 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide and bears large bouquets of golden yellow flowers. Foliage is much thicker and darker than the species. Leave the faded flowers for the goldfinch to enjoy the seeds.

'Wicked Witch' dianthus (Dianthus gratianopolitanus) - The clove scent of dianthus is one of the most glorious in the garden. This sport of 'Firewitch' discovered by Tony Avent has intense cherry-fuchsia flowers in early spring with sporadic reblooming throughout the summer and fall.

Purple coneflowers (echinacea) are another popular plant with breeders, with all manner of shapes, colors, and forms lately. My worry is that eventually they will revert back to the traditional pink but in the meantime, let's enjoy them. Among the new ones: 'All That Jazz', with completely quilled, lavender-pink ray petals and an orange cone; 'Purple Fantasy', with deep purple flowers; 'Elton Knight', with magenta blooms to 6 inches across; 'Avalanche', with crisp white flowers; and 'Panther Pink', with bright pink flowers.

'Desert Plains' fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) - Finely textured mounds of green leaves grow to 3 feet tall and wide, with the tips of leaves turning to deep red by midsummer, then becoming orange and gold in the fall. Tan, bottlebrush blooms are produced in early fall.

There will always be hybrid tea, grandiflora, and floribunda roses, but with the advent of Knock Out, the era of the shrub rose has really taken off. Unfortunately, many of these have little of the fragrance we associate with roses. Over time, hybridizers will introduce more and more disease-resistant, ever-blooming, fragrant shrub roses.

This year, we can look forward to the Sunny Knock Out rose with bright yellow, fragrant flowers on plants 4 feet tall and wide; as well as two extra-hardy Northern Accents roses. 'Ole' has large clusters of fragrant, white to blush-pink blooms on 2-1/2-foot-tall plants over 3 feet wide, while 'Sven' has strongly fragrant flowers with a color range from violet to mauve and dark pink.

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