by Jan Cashman
Each winter, in the midst of snow and cold, it’s fun to dream about spring and the new plants that will be available this year. Growers and researchers are always searching for superior selections and hybrids of ornamental trees, shrubs, and flowers that are disease resistant, have better form, leaf color, hardiness, longer bloom times, and other superior traits. Here are a few standouts that will be available in the spring of 2008:
As our meteor pie cherry succumbs to old age, we are considering the new-to-us Evans Bali pie cherry because of its large (1″ diameter), sweeter fruit. Evans Bali, like other pie cherries, is self-fertile, but it is much sweeter and supposedly as hardy as meteor.
Although there is nothing new about dwarf apple trees, this year we will have more of our best apple varieties, such as Haralred, State Fair and Sweet Sixteen, available on semi-dwarf rootstock. Semi-dwarf apple trees reach about 60% of the size of standard apple trees. (Standard apple trees’ mature size is about 25′ x 25′.) Even a small back yard should have room for these smaller trees.
Choosing a good shade tree for our area continues to be a challenge. Unfortunately, after planting Fall Gold black ash in the last 15 years, the last two seasons has seen the insect called Cottony Psyllid almost wipe them out. The City of Bozeman issued $75 vouchers for citizens to replace Fall Gold black ash planted on their boulevards. But what trees make good replacements? For years, we have planted hardy green ash varieties (which are not susceptible to the Cottony Psyllid) but now all ash (species Fraxinus) are threatened by the Emerald Ash borer, slowly moving west from where it was first discovered in Michigan. (Mountain ash trees are in a different genus and are not threatened by either of these insects.)
One good shade tree for our area is the stately, tall American elm, which has done well here over the years, but most homeowners are fearful of them because of Dutch elm disease. Although it has not reached the Gallatin Valley, this disease has been found in Billings and Great Falls. Discovery and Vanguard are two new elm varieties introduced in Canada that are highly resistant to Dutch elm disease. Hardy, drought resistant, and similar in shape to the American elm, these two elms should be worth a try.
Linden is another attractive, long-lived shade tree that is relatively disease and insect free. Some newer cultivars of linden such as ‘Frontyard’ show improved shape, hardiness, and growth rate. Jerry likes the littleleaf types of linden for their shape and compact size. ‘Shamrock’ is a littleleaf linden selection that shows vigorous growth and has a uniform shape that works well in home landscapes.
Several species of ninebark shrubs have been gaining in popularity. Diablo, a tall (10′) shrub with purple leaves, has become a good substitute for the commonly planted purple leaf plum. Deer like to eat purple leaf plums and other plants in the Prunus genus, but they will avoid ninebarks. The newer, compact (5′) Summer Wine Ninebark, is an outstanding shrub with deeply cut dark red leaves and pinkish-white flowers in mid-summer.
Bailey Nurseries, in St. Paul, Minnesota, has a new series of roses they call “Easy Elegance” which may die to the ground in a hard winter (they are rated hardiness zone 4). These new roses are grown on their own root, so if they do freeze back all the way to the ground, the growth coming up from the root will be the same as the top growth. The “Easy Elegance” series of roses has fantastic colors, continuous blooms, are compact, disease-free and need little pruning. We have been trialing one called Sunrise Sunset, a small ground cover rose with stunning, pink-blend flowers. It has survived its first winter for us. Two other “Easy Elegance” roses we will be trying are Super Hero, a compact rose with large, red, hybrid-tea-like blooms, and Fiesta, another small shrub rose with stunning pink and white striped petals. Try planting these small roses within your perennial flower gardens.
Echinacea (Purple Coneflower), hardy geraniums, daylilies, and sedum are four reliable and easy-to-grow perennial flowers. This year we will have two new varieties of Echinacea, ‘Coconut Lime’ and ‘Pink Double Delight’, unusual looking flowers with huge cones. Coconut Lime has a lime green cone and white petals. Most hardy geraniums have single flowers, but there is a new double, bright pink hardy geranium, called ‘Southcombe Double.’ There are hundreds of kinds of daylilies, but one exceptional new reblooming variety called ‘Spanish Glow’ is full of large, peach-colored flowers. Sedum, both ground cover and upright types, grow well here. A new compact, upright sedum, just released, called ‘Autumn Charm’ has variegated leaves edged in white. ‘Autumn Charm’, like most sedums, is tolerant of heat, drought, and poor soils.
Ornamental grasses are used in our landscapes more each year. A great new variegated form of the ever-popular ‘Karl Forester’ reed grass called ‘Eldorado’ has narrow green blades with a bright gold center. The seed-heads are light purple and mature in the fall to a golden color.
Nancy, our grower, trialed a new flower called ‘Lemon Drop’ oenothera, growing it in an old washtub on her south side deck mixed with other heat-loving plants in reds and oranges. She said it withstood the heat well and bloomed all summer. It’s bright yellow flowers would make it a good addition to your sunny pots.
If you’re looking for the latest and best plants for your garden, try planting some of these new varieties.