Treasures Waiting to be Planted

May-2014-e1401976150614-257x227I have one of the greatest jobs! I love my work and enjoy my industry so much that it really never feels like work. One of the perks for me is that I get to travel all over the country and handpick all the nursery stock that we offer. Inspecting plant material, meeting growers and knowing all the ins and outs is what makes all the difference. Ours is an industry where one rhododendron grown by one grower does not necessarily mean that it will look the same grown by all growers. In fact, aside from the plant being true to name, many times the aesthetics and end result are different. After all, do all Cabernet Sauvignons look and taste the same?

Often when I tour nurseries I look for the latest and greatest, the rare and the unusual. We of course need the basics in our pipeline to offer our customers, however, for those seeking inspiration and a little pizazz in their gardens I offer you the following:

Hosoba Hoshifu Aucuba, Aucuba japonica ‘Hosoba Hoshifu’, is a Japanese female selection that has some of the brightest leaf splashing available. Aucuba has long been a favorite for shade gardening. This tropical looking plant is actually “hardy”. A broad leafed evergreen; this Aucuba’s dark green leaves are speckled with tons of yellow dots. ‘Hosoba Hoshifu’, I am told, means, “narrow-leaved star variegated. True to its name the leaves measure some 7 inches long and only 1.5 inches wide. The pièce de résistance, for me at least, are the clusters of bright red, peanut sized fruit in the winter. Remember to buy a male clone here if you want the fruit and leave room for a plant that will grow 4-6 feet tall and wide.

Sweetshrub or Calycanthus has long been a favorite and “Go To” plant of mine. A plant that is known to be deer resistant, can handle dry shade, has good fall color, a native and has fragrant flowers… what more could you ask for? How ‘bout one that has a showy purple cast to the new growth, followed by consistent purple markings on the undersides of the leaves all summer? Well Richard Hesselein, a brilliant plantsman and owner of Pleasant Run Nursery right here in New Jersey, has done just that. After scrutinizing over large populations of Calycanthus seedlings, he has brought to market Calycanthus floridus var. purpureus. Propagated from cuttings to ensure the coloration, the result is darker and spectacular. The fragrant flowers are classic maroon-red and the fall color is yellow with shades of burgundy. A versatile plant that can handle many difficult sites, this Sweetshrub will grow 6-8 feet tall and almost as wide.

Doghobble, the vernacular for Leucothoe is a name you can’t forget once you hear it. Another “Go To” plant, Drooping Leucothoe is capable of solving and overcoming many problems sometimes associated with gardening. More than shade tolerant, evergreen, native & deer resistant there are a few Leucothoe with strong markings capable of lighting up dark areas. Whitewater Leucothoe, Leucothoe fontanesiana Whitewater® ‘Howw’ caught my attention from over 50 yards away. Tucked in the back corner of a nursery, underneath shade cloth, I quickly made my way closer. This Doghobble is more compact than the species. Its strongest attribute is its narrow ivory-white margins on dark green, lustrous evergreen leaves. Creamy white, urn-shaped flower spikes appear in May along gracefully arching branches. A big believer in mass planting, this disease resistant variety would be great for a naturalized planting. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that the emerging new growth shows shades of wine, pink, copper and green.

Finally the deciduous conifer…Pondcypress. When you want one of the most durable trees ever, you need to look no further. Capable of smiling at gale force winds, total immersion in water, drought, hard winters and sweltering summers. Taxodium ascendens ‘Debonair’ has been selected, perhaps for no other reason than its foliage is the softest and most delicate yet. This is a tree that, as it matures, begs to be touched and caressed. Long green threads, hang from cinnamon colored stems. It is these same strands that not only waft in the wind but also turn a rich russet orange in the fall. A tropical look to some, its footprint will reach heights of 50-60 feet tall and only 10-15 feet wide. Introduced by Earl Cully and the Morris Arboretum, ‘Debonair’ is a zone 4 plant.

So there you have it, some new and exciting plants that will add style and grace to your garden, solve difficult planting areas all the while keeping you current. New plants are being found every day making gardening a never-ending journey.