In The Not Too Distant Future…

01 Mar In The Not Too Distant Future…

Recently I returned from the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS) in Baltimore, Maryland, one of the nation’s largest trade shows for the Independent Garden Center. More than 11,000 registered attendees came from 48 states and 16 countries to visit 956 exhibiting companies all there to do business, network and learn about the latest “green industry” trends for 2019. Reportedly MANTS had its best attendance in over a decade, now in its 49th year. The Masterpiece of Trade Shows™, this was my 26th year attending. MANTS is one of the the largest private trade shows serving the Horticultural Industry. Nursery stock, landscape and garden items, equipment, tools, furniture, consultants and so much more are available in Inner Harbor’s massive convention center. My primary focus for attending this show has always been education and networking. Walking aisle after aisle I am always keeping my eyes out for the next greatest plant or plants. Well ladies and gentlemen, here are a few that will be available to us all in the not too distant future.

     The first of three popular plant types I will be talking about is a true harbinger of spring… Redbud. Wildly popular, this genus seems to have catapulted to one of the most popular small to medium sized flowering trees, running neck and neck with Dogwood. A tree known for its bright flowers borne directly on the bark, it looks like ribbon streamers ripping up and down the trees branching in March and April. A tree complete with “heart-shaped” leaves and true pods (legumes) in the fall, this is truly a tree for all seasons. There are so many exciting cultivars available today; ‘Forest Pansy’, ‘Appalachian Red’, ‘Floating Clouds’, ‘Little Woody’, ‘The Rising Sun’ and ‘Carolina Sweetheart’ to name just a few. The latest and greatest, I think, coming through the pipeline is Cercis canadensis ‘Flame Thrower™’ ‘NC2016-2’ PPAF. A breakthrough variety that has such unique foliage markings, with four or five different colors on a single branch. New growth is burgundy/red maturing to bright yellow with hints of lime and eventually green. This cultivar has minimal leaf scorch, a big bonus, and low maintenance which is great news for any gardener. All this on a form that is semi-pendulous. Typical flowering and foliage attributes apply here and the expected height for this small wonder is fifteen feet tall and wide. 

     The second “Big Gun” I found coming along is another popular and certainly marketable tree, dogwood. And while kousa types seem to outsell today because of their resistance to anthracnose, here’s a new native type to get really excited about. Cornus florida ‘Ragin’ Red™’ ‘JN13’ PPAF, hopefully will live up to the hype. Native dogwoods are generally known for their prolific, yet subtle colors, however ‘Ragin’ Red’ is a real “Barn Burner”.  Deep-red bracts or flowers to some, reminiscent of a fine Cabernet or Barolo, I only saw pictures of this cultivar, however I am optimistic. ‘Ragin’ Red’, touted for its resilience, fast growth, long life and for maintaining its color throughout the entire season. A wildlife haven, cardinals and robins will ravage the tree’s fruit in the fall, adding even more color and interest to your landscape. Anticipated to grow 20 to 30 feet tall and wide, dogwoods appreciate full to partial sun, protected from late, hot afternoon sun. Finally, just like the afore mentioned Redbud, both trees are expected to thrive in zones 5-9 (10).

     The last of three new plants to talk about is boxwood. There is no denying that Boxwood Blight, a fungus caused by Calonectria pseudonaviculata (buxicola) resulting in the defoliation and decline of susceptible types, has been a game changer for garden center sales. Homeowners not aware of this problem should know that it is here and real in New Jersey. However, Saunders Brothers, Inc., a grower/nursery in Piney River, Virginia has been leading the charge to combat this problem and has almost always been associated with “all things boxwood”. Hard pressed to find better stewards in our industry, Saunders Brothers will be introducing NewGen™ Boxwood. A new standard for modern boxwood with consistent and improved qualities for today’s landscape, these types are reportedly said to have better tolerance of Boxwood Blight and leafminer, another common problem for the genus. Efforts in evaluation and trialing over the last 70 plus years has solidified Saunders Brothers position as an industry leader. Bio-secure test methods, superior introductions and a regional network of premier licensed propagators and growers is on the horizon and hopefully landing in your garden, in large numbers, in 2020?

     Walking the MANTS show is certainly something I look forward to every year. Networking, ordering, attending seminars and finding the next great plant or product is something that excites me. And if I happen to meet Dr. Allan Armitage, professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia, renown horticulturist known for his distinctive Tilley hat, well then, I consider that a bonus. And if we happen to get listed on his newest venture, his popular app called Armitages Greatest Perennials and Annuals, then I consider that an even bigger thrill.