New Plants for 2009

by Jan Cashman

Every year growers and plant breeders develop improved trees, shrubs, and flowers that are disease resistant, have better form, leaf color, hardiness, and longer bloom times.    We don’t buy all the new varieties that are available to us; we wait to see how they grow first.  A new plant might sound great but fizzle after a few years.   Sometimes new plants cost more because of plant patents.   Sometimes we don’t purchase them right away because, as in the case of dwarf summer-flowering spireas, there are already over 20 varieties available.  We wait until we are sure that it is going to be an improvement over the dwarf spireas we already sell.   On the other hand, new plants are exciting, so each year we try some of the more promising varieties.

River birch (Betula nigra), unlike weeping birch,  is resistant to the insect called Bronze birch borer; a new river birch, Northern Tribute, selected for its adaptability to cold and drought, might prove to be a good tree.   Its coppery-bronze exfoliating bark is beautiful in both summer and winter.   Another not new, but native tree called Western Red Birch, also resistant to the birch borer, can be found along streams in western Montana.   This attractive multi-stem tree can provide wildlife habitat in your yard.

Japanese tree lilac is a compact, fragrant, disease free flowering tree for our area.  Bailey Nurseries in St. Paul, Minnesota, has selected Snowdance, a new early- flowering variety of tree lilac because it has exceptionally heavy bloom and a graceful vase shape.

This year there are many new shrubs, including a new serviceberry, Obelisk, that is tall and narrow, three new hardy dogwoods, and at least one new dwarf spirea.   Dwarf bush honeysuckle is a relatively unknown shrub that we feel should be planted more because it is compact, easy to grow, and hardy in sun or shade.  A new variety of dwarf bush honeysuckle called Cool Splash has variegated (bright white and green) leaves.  Cool Splash could be used as a substitute for variegated dogwood where a smaller plant is needed.

Because they take less time for plant breeders to develop, hundreds of new perennial and annual flowers are introduced each year.   The number of new Heucheras (coral bells), Echinaceas (coneflower), and Sedums introduced the last few years is mindboggling .   One new series of Achillea (Yarrow) is interesting to us because yarrow is so easy to grow here, in fact, certain varieties can be quite invasive.  This new series called Seduction is compact, growing to only 24” and less invasive.  The flowers are either dark rose, red or yellow.  (Pick and dry yarrow at peak bloom for beautiful dried-flower arrangements.)

Dicentra spectablis (bleeding heart) is one of the longest lived, hardiest, and most beautiful perennials in my garden.  Planted in a partially shaded area 34 years ago, my bleeding heart is still going strong.  Burning Hearts is a promising new, smaller, fernleaf variety of bleeding heart that has red flowers in clusters and blooms for a longer time than the old-fashioned bleeding heart.

With the emphasis these days on water conservation, the native Penstemons are a must in a xeriscape  landscape.   Silverton and Shadow Mountain are two new Penstemon varieties.  Silverton is a shorter (12”) plant with lavender blue flowers and evergreen foliage.  Shadow Mountain is a taller, drought tolerant Penstemon with lavender/maroon flowers.

This spring, try planting the new-to-us tomato called Bellstar, a plum tomato recommended by a customer in Ennis for its early fruit set and saucy qualities.  We will also have three new hot peppers good for growing in containers: Apache, Chenzo, and Cheyenne.  Or plant the compact Redskin sweet red bell pepper in a pot on your patio.

New and exciting plants can add a spark to your gardens.  Old standbys like bleeding hearts are tried and proven.  Either way, we all look forward to a fertile 2009 growing season.