It’s always fun to grow at least one plant that makes visitors ask, “What is THAT?” Right now the horticulture trade is deciding which new offerings will appear in your retail garden center next spring, or in the seasons to come.
This year I got to play a part in that process. I was one of three judges for the New Varieties Showcase at the Farwest National Nursery and Greenhouse Trade Show in Portland, Oregon. We judges were looking for new. That could mean plants with an exciting breakthrough in color/form, disease resistance, or less maintenance—perhaps a new trait like natural bushiness so greenhouse workers don’t have to pinch it back before it comes to market.
Here are our top four selections—plus the show-goers’ choice—from a field of astonishing entries. I wanted them all.
Best in Show
Clematis ‘New Love’—It’s not a vine, but rather a wonderfully shrubby (3 x 2 feet) form. Upright woody stems burst with small scented purple bell-shaped flowers that recurve when fully open. And so many blossoms! The vigor of the plant was apparent, even when very young. It’s also easy-care. Cut down to four inches in early spring and watch it go. (Zone 5-9)
Plants of Merit
Euonymus japonica ‘Happiness’— This low-maintenance compact (2 x 1 feet) shrub with evergreen—or should I say evergold?—deep yellow foliage will bring bright year-round color to borders or containers. (Zone 6b-9)
Parrotia persica ‘Golden Belltower’—The Persian ironwood tree deserves its name for toughness, but the species spreads far too wide for many gardens. Now here’s a columnar tree that grows moderately tall to 30 feet in twenty years but only 10 feet across. The golden leaves turn red-orange in fall and the bark exfoliates for more interest. Plus, it can take dry conditions once established. (Zone 5-8)
First Editions® Summer Ruffle™ (Hibiscus syriacus ‘Aarticus’)—This variegated hibiscus has blue-green and white leaves, so it will always be an eye catcher, even when the pinky-lavender blossoms haven’t arrived yet. At 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, it will be ideal in beds or large containers. (Zones 5-8)
People’s Choice Award
First Editions® Ruffled Red Magic® (Lagerstroemia ‘PIILG-AII’)—A new crape myrtle with red ruffled carnation-like flowers and dark green disease-resistant foliage garnered the most votes from the horticultural professionals. It grows fast to 12 by 8 feet. (Zone 6-9)