New Plants for 2010

by Jan Cashman 1/30/10

In the past few years, “branding” of plants has become important in the nursery and gardening business. “Proven Winners”, the largest U.S. plant brand, was formed in 1992 by plant propagators to introduce new, unique, high-performing plants, and has really taken off. Plants are selected for the Proven Winners brand after 2 to 3 years of rigorous testing and determination that they are virus free; then patented. Proven Winner plants have always been labeled with their tag, but now might be sold in pots carrying the Proven Winners logo.

Whether branded or not, it is always exciting at this time of the year to read about new plant introductions for the upcoming gardening season. There are hundreds; I will tell about a few interesting plants for our climate.

Bailey Nurseries, a large grower of hardy plants in St. Paul, Minnesota, brands the plants they develop “First Edition”. One of their First Edition introductions is an ornamental tree called Spring Wonder Sargent Cherry. Finally, a pink flowering cherry hardy enough to withstand our winters! About the size of a flowering crabapple, this tree has delicate, single, pink flowers and small, reddish-black fruit. In the fall its leaves turn shades of yellow, red and orange.

We are anxious to try the Proven Winner shrub, Black Lace Elderberry, which has finely cut, intense purple-black foliage. It has huge creamy pink flowers that contrast with its dark leaves. Like any elderberry—its nutritious fruit can be harvested for wine or jam or left for the birds to eat. This shrub can grow to over 8 feet and will make a stunning accent to landscapes.

Although new pink and blue flowered hydrangeas have been introduced for northern climates, the white-flowering hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) still are the easiest to grow here. Our white Annabelle hydrangea thrives in the shade; I like to harvest and dry its flowers when they start to turn from white to light green in late summer. It would be hard to improve on Annabelle, but Proven Winners Incrediball is a new hydrangea of the same species as Annabelle with up to four times as many huge blooms up to 12” in diameter. Incrediball will be a great small shrub for a shady spot!

Included in the many new perennial flowers released this year, there are new Echinaceas for sun, and new Heucheras and Hellebores for shade. Delphiniums have always been a mainstay to give height to the old-fashioned cottage garden. New Millennium is a series of delphiniums that is long-lived and more heat tolerant than the old Pacific Giants, but just as cold hardy. New Millennium delphiniums have stronger stems, important where the wind can blow these tall perennials over. The new Red Caroline Delphinium has coral-red flowers, a rare color for delphiniums.

Baptisia (common name: false indigo) is a perennial flower that doesn’t get much attention, but should. It was named the 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year. I have had one planted in my perennial garden for years; it thrives in partial shade with no extra care or attention. It is a tall plant (over 3 feet) with a clean look and indigo-blue flowers in early summer that develop into interesting seed pods. (Baptisia is in the pea family.) Deer leave it alone. Some new selections of Baptisia include Solar Flair with yellow flowers, Twilite, with purple flowers with a yellow edge, and Starlite, with periwinkle-blue flowers.

New annual flowers include a white allysum called Snow Princess. I like to plant white allysum for the border of my annual bed because it is quick to fill in and has a wonderful, sweet fragrance. Snow Princess has larger flowers and better vigor and heat tolerance than other white allysums. A new petunia, Pretty Much Picasso, is bright pinkish-purple with a lime green edge, sure to be a stand-out in any flower bed or container.

Innovative Iseli Nursery near Portland, Oregon, has been a pioneer in the development of dwarf evergreens. This year we are trying their dwarf bristlecone pine called Sherwood Compact that grows in a perfect conical shape to 4 feet, with a dense, formal appearance, unlike the irregular form of the common bristlecone pine. Sherwood Compact bristlecone pine grows slowly, so will make a great substitute for those who like the compact form of dwarf Alberta spruce but need a plant that is less susceptible to winter burn.

These are just a few of the many new and improved trees, shrubs, and flowers for 2010, some with a brand, others not. Chose those hardy for our climate and add something new to your landscape this spring.