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New plants for the new year are out

Spring catalogs display a large array of new and old varieties for the new growing season. (Photo courtesy / John Zvirovski)

Well, it is that time of year again when there is a new garden catalog in the mail almost every day. It sure adds a sense of life back into the gardener to be able to page through them and dream of the upcoming growing season. We always tend to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of different plants to choose from, but we often have to contain ourselves so we do not overbuy and overspend once again.

I have gotten past the days of needing too much as my gardens are now at the stage where one has to be selective on what one adds, as there tends to be less and less room each year. Once again, I focus on the new and interesting plant varieties to capture my attention. Each year there is a new group of plants that enters the market. Some of them I am not overly impressed with, and others fascinate me to no end. Whether it is a new annual, perennial, shrub or tree, one of them is bound to end up in my garden.

This year happens to have many new varieties to whet your taste for something new. My favorite one of last year was the hot springs lobelia that came in flowers of white, sky blue and lavender. The plants lasted well in the hottest spots of the yard without drying up or withering in the heat. They will definitely be a welcome addition again this year. My favorite so far this year is the colocasia noble gigante, which is a large-leafed elephant ear of deep purple that can grow 6 to 8 feet in one season. I have just the place for that one.

A few other stunners that I have noticed are the deep orange petunia called “African sunset” with good, rich color and deep veining in the flowers. Some other nice petunia introductions are “cha-chang cherry” with its cherry red petals that have a white star in the flower along with a subtle, yellow throat. The “supertunia flamingo” is an aggressive grower with hot pink blooms and deep pink veins; this one is sure to fill a basket quickly. A unique one for small spaces would be “blue a fuse” petunia with its pale purple markings mixed with pale yellow and white. Each flower is a little different with this one and it only grows to be about 1 foot high by 1 foot wide. If you are one who enjoys the million bell varieties or calibrachoa, try “pomegranate punch” with its rich cranberry-colored flowers or “spicy” with its sunset hues and deep red veins. Of course each of these flowers is set off by a striking yellow throat.

Another annual I think many will enjoy this year is the “sparks will fly” begonia with its almost black leaves and its orange daisy-like flowers that stand high above the foliage with a stunning contrast. For other shady areas, try the new torenia called “grape-o-licious” with its white tubular flowers and deep purple throats. They are the perfect small plants to brighten up a shady area and are also drought tolerant.

For perennials there is a new baptisia called “blue towers” that has larger flower stems that are 20 inches tall that stand above the 24 to 30 inches of compact foliage. This one has few leaves on the lower areas to allow for basal planting for good accent. If you love delphinium but do not like to fuss with them falling over, try the new “dwarf stars” millennium variety. They only grow to a height of 18 to 30 inches and not any wider with the same glorious flower stems. The new coneflower for this year is called “supreme cantaloupe” with its melon-colored flowers and double center that resembles gerbera daisies as the plants age. There is also a new dwarf Joe Pye weed called “capri,” also known as a Japanese Joe Pye. This 2-foot plant has a very lacy-type foliage that is deeply dissected with blush, pink blooms for small spaces. “Sunstruck” heliopsis brings in one of the largest flowers in its group of compact plants that are 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall. Accent your shady areas with the new “blackberry ice” coral bell that begins with a deep purple foliage paired with a deep black veining, later turning to a shimmering pewter color during the warm months of summer.

New varieties don’t just encompass flowers; they also consist of some unique trees and shrubs. We all revel in the existence of the magnolia plants of the south, but as time goes on growers are developing more and more hardy varieties that work for our area also. The latest is the star magnolia centennial blush with its pale pink flowers during the spring months. This ornamental tree only reaches about 15 feet in height by about 12 feet wide when mature. The “durleo” crabapple is an extremely hardy cultivar that is narrow in habit, reaching 20 feet high by only 9 feet wide. The bright, pink flowers contrast very well with the bronze-purple coloring of the foliage. “Streetspire” oak is a nice columnar species that grows well in most soils and produces a red autumn color. For those that enjoy growing fruit trees, try the “eubank” sweet cherry. This ultra-hardy tree is very compact at 10 to 12 feet in height and produces numerous large cherries that are sweeter than most of the sour varieties on the market. Not only is it a good producer, but it does not need a companion tree to pollinate it as it is self-pollinating.

The new varieties listed are just a few of the many new ones on the market this season. Check your local nurseries to find out what is new on their list and peruse all the new catalogs coming in the mail. There are sure to be some delectable treats that you will just have to add into the garden this year. This is a good time to start planning what you want for the garden this year. Before you know it, we will be digging in the dirt again!