78 Days & Counting…

     In 2020, the spring equinox (also called the March equinox or vernal equinox) falls on Thursday, March 19,” 78 days from the publication of this issue of the Gardener News. “This event marks the astronomical first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere” (almanac.com). In other words, gardening season is open… weather permitting? So what do gardeners have to look forward to this year?

     There is no doubt that hydrangea have been one of the hottest plants for residential landscapes over the past few years. The amount of new varieties being thrust into the marketplace is staggering and, quite honestly, difficult to keep track of. Notwithstanding, hydrangea seem to appear in every trade publication, gardening magazine and are strewn across the Internet and Social Media outlets alike. Hydrangea ‘Everlasting® Crimson’, Hydrangea ‘Hortmagicri’ Everlasting Crimson, has been described “like a chameleon changing from green to red.” An amazing selection that seems ideal for most any garden space. Apple green, lacy flowers open with a tinge of red, quickly advancing to a cherry-red fireball. Perhaps the most acclaimed red variety in the Everlasting line, this garden gem also has strong stems and dark green leaves. As summer capitulates to autumn, ‘Everlasting® Crimson’ “ages to green with red highlights.” Hardy in zones 5-9 and only standing 3 feet tall and wide, this Hydrangea should work well in garden containers too. Blooming on new wood and old wood, the guess work of when to prune has been made easier… it doesn’t matter much. However, many stewards in the industry suggest pruning older stems, right after flowering, in the fall. A plant selection brought to us by Plants Nouveau, ‘Everlasting® Crimson’ certainly has my attention. Yet another selection of big leaf hydrangea from Kolster BV in the Netherlands, originally bred for the cut flower market.

     A plant that I am seldom enamored with is Leucothoe. I love the academics of the plant, a broadleaf evergreen, that is deer resistant, shade tolerant and flowers. However, I just don’t see many in residential landscapes thriving. Rather I see many lackluster examples, eventually “petering out” in the landscape. Perhaps it’s the heavy clay soil in our part of New Jersey or maybe the ones I have seen have been sited in too wet of a soil, whatever the reason, many don’t look better than the day they were purchased. Of course, there’s always the exception, and when I see that “one” performing in a textbook manner, it gives me hope. Leucothoe ‘Little Flames’, Leucothoe hybrid Leafscape™ ‘Little Flames’ PP25,246, I am hoping, will change my opinion of this plant. Introduced as a tidy, compact, garden candidate, this “hardy” evergreen shrub needs no pruning. Leucothoe ‘Little Flames’ only grows 20 inches tall and 12 inches wide, perfect for garden planters and small garden nooks. This American native is naturally disease, pest and deer resistant, has fiery leaves and fragrant spring blooms. Great things are expected from this mini botanical wonder. Glossy, olive-green leaves yield to fire engine red highlights in cooler months. Finally, ‘Little Flames’ foliage is expected to remain upright and pointed, always looking fresh.

     The last introduction to talk about, this month, is Viburnum carlesii ‘Spice Island’. ‘Spice Island’ Koreanspice viburnum seems to be a plant with amazing flowers and features! Intoxicatingly fragrant flowers are touted as only being outdone by the plants sheer abundance of flowers, certain to capture the attention of many gardeners. One could imbibe this plant, taking in all its comforts, choosing it as a single specimen or a hedge. Fragrant, pink buds open to small snowball-like clusters, sometimes being mistaken for hydrangea. This plant also blooms fully clothed with leaves. As the days become shorter and the nights longer, ‘Spice Island’s’ foliage turns brilliant shades of burgundy and glowing reds. Compact in its appearance, 4-5 feet tall and wide, and hardy in zones 5-9, this “little engine that could” should perform admirably where there is adequate sun. “A provocative blend of spices and vanilla” (plantsnoveau.com/plant/viburnum-carlesii-spice-island), this small, deciduous, garden gem could be one of the most fragrant ornamental plants on the planet? And remember, prune your spring blooming viburnums after they bloom, for best results.

     Exciting new plants abound this coming spring! Companies like Proven Winners, First Editions®, Bushel and Berry®, True Bloom™, Raymond Evison® Collection, Chick Charms® Collectable Hens & Chicks and Plants Nouveau are just a few horticultural companies regularly introducing new plants. And while the waters may get “muddied” from time to time with redundancy and new plant introductions being thrust into the market too early, the afore mentioned are sure to have their roots deeply embedded into many American landscapes.