Hartley Magazine

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Best Easy-Care Plants for Years to Come

Begonia ‘Cathedral Windows’ red and green leaves always look good.

It’s the time of year for giving thanks. And as a professional garden writer, I am thankful for the exciting new plants from growers and marketers that I get to trial and review. However, sometimes many seasons pass before plants demonstrate just how good they really are. So, I’d like to share a couple of the most successful, most rewarding plants that have only gotten better with age in my garden.

Acer x freemanii ‘Marmo’– This maple came home to Oregon from the Morton Arboretum as a four-inch stick after a Chicago garden writers’ conference in 2003. One of my fellow participants laughed at me for my growing ambitions, but now the tiny stick is 20 feet tall, and giving promise of the mighty 50 to 70-footer it will become. Most satisfying. (Zone 3-9)

Fall coloring is a bonus on Franklinia tree.

Franklinia alatahama – All of these small (10-20 feet) trees are descended from seeds that plant explorers John Bartram and his son sent to back to England from Georgia in the mid-1700s. The tree mysteriously disappeared in the wild after 1803. My tree was fished out of the back of a truck, after the 2008 garden writers’ conference in Portland, Oregon, by Nancy Buley, Director of Communications at J. Frank Schmidt and Sons Nursery. Fragrant flowers bloom in the fall. (Zone 6-9)

Hydrangea Incrediball® (H. arborescens ‘Abetwo’) – I received this most dramatic hydrangea from Proven Winners in 2009. It grows where the soil isn’t great, the water is regular but scant, and it gets blasted by afternoon sun. Now the bush is as outsized as the eight-inch blossoms. The stems grow up through a horizontal grid hidden by the foliage. Otherwise, the Oregon rains would weight down the massive heads. Terrific as dried flowers. (Zone 4-9)

Oso Easy Roses – Also from Proven Winners, all of the Oso series produce an amazing floriferous display and are practically self-cleaning. And I can prune them with my hedge shears—they don’t mind in the least. This is no-disease simple care at its best! (Zone 4-9)

Oso Easy Paprika leeps producing its scented blooms until frost

Begonia ‘Cathedral Windows’ – Here’s a worthy candidate for the winter greenhouse. With scalloped dark green leaves backed by a deep maroon-red color, this tender perennial came to me from Terra Nova Nurseries.  It grows in a large container in summer shade under my grape arbor and then spends the winter in my sunroom, where its white flowers put on a great show. No bugs, no fuss, just terrific. (Zone10-11)

If you’d like to order any of these for your garden, talk to your local independent nursery grower. All are available.