Friday, August 31, 2012

Popularity Contest

Pistachio Hydrangia
In the August issue of Random Acts of Gardening, I wrote about the New Varieties Showcase at the Farwest Show and several plants I was particularly interested in seeing. Sometimes plants don’t live up to the promotional materials. Other times the plants exceed expectations. Several plants landed in the “exceed expectations” bucket including Agapanthus ‘Black Pantha’ (sturdy tall stem with dark flower color), Cimicifuga ‘Chocoholic’ (beautiful rich chocolate colored leaves), Pistachio Hydrangea (interesting flower color and compact size), Nandina ‘Tuscan Flame’ (excellent red foliage color year round, fine foliage and compact size) and Tradescantia rosea ‘Morning Grace’ (small, sweet lavender flowers and compact clumping form). I must qualify my enthusiasm by saying that this assessment is based solely upon looks; I have no idea how the plants actually perform in a garden setting (in many cases, they are too new to really say).

A panel of judges selected a Best of Show and three Outstanding Plants based on three criteria: value to the landscape, retail appeal and uniqueness of the plant characteristics. First Editions® Amber Jubilee™ Ninebark (Physocarpus) won Best of Show for its glowing foliage and multi-season interest. Black Pantha Agapanthus, Cathedral Gem Sausage Vine (Holboellia)and Peach Sorbet BrazelBerries™ Blueberry won recognition as outstanding plants.

During the show, we ask people visiting the showcase to cast votes for their favorite plants. Pistachio Hydrangea won hands down. I must say the flower coloring is very exciting and distinctive (see photo above). I was thrilled when given a plant to try in my garden. You should begin to see the new varieties in garden centers beginning this fall and certainly by next spring.

A fun tidbit: The ‘Tuscan Flame’ Nandina is a local discovery. A nurseryman found the selection in a field of Nandina domestica at the Salem wholesale nursery where he’s worked for years. Several years ago, the same nurseryman found a sport of a Photinia with pink marble coloration during the cooler late winter/early spring months. Combining the names of his daughter and son, he named is it ‘Cassini’. After years of building saleable inventory, both are being sold across the country. How cool is that!


  1. I'm incredibly jealous of your knowledge and green thumb abilities. I kill everything. Sometimes I think I might buy something like the Pistachio Hydrangea to add some character to my home, but then I remember the fate that has befallen all of my garden victims. I just don't want to kill anything that pretty. *Sigh* I've even killed a mint plant. I tried so very hard to water it properly, etc., but it didn't take very well to the pot. I sure do love hydrangeas though.

  2. Cheryl, if you only knew how many plants have died because I didn't plant them in the right place, or died in the container because I didn't get them in the ground soon enough, or I didn't fertilize and they withered away. Rosie from N&M Herb Nursery told me this week that if someone says they can't grow anything, they'll be able to grow the annual Plectranthus. And mint has a tendency to die out in the center of the plant. So don't be too hard on yourself. Consider adopting this mantra: Dig a $10 hole for a $1 plant by including a big enough hole and lots of good soil amendments to get the plant off to a great start. There's always next year to try something new!