Every year I look forward to my end-of-summer treat—seeing the plant selections in the New Varieties Showcase at the Farwest trade show in Portland, Oregon. These are the glorious newcomers, sold to wholesalers who will grow them on in greenhouses, and bring them to market next year. Here’s a look at the “oh wow!” plants you’ll have to wait for.
I met up with two of the Showcase judges, Sue Goetz and her daughter, Courtney. They explained how—along with Brian Bauman and Danielle Ernest—they decided the winners. First, the plants had to be attractive and useful to the landscape industry. Most of the entries qualified for that. Second, they also had to show well in a retail nursery situation. That means early flowering or eye-catching foliage in containers. Again, most plants looked great. But the third virtue was critical. “They needed to have a unique quality,” Sue said, “something we haven’t seen before.”
Unique? Sue and Courtney both mentioned a selection of the prairie native, mule’s ear (Wyethia scabra). With large oval sand papery leaves—resembling, yes, a mule’s ear—and handsome four-inch sunflower-yellow blooms, it’s tough enough for any low-water situation in full sun. “It’s an early colonizer of disturbed soil,” Sue noted, “a useful native coming out of the University of Idaho’s breeding program.”
Unique means more compact. Sue mentioned the tiny one-foot blue alpine columbine—Aquilegia scopulorum—also from the University of Idaho. It’s re-blooming, with low maintenance for sun to part shade. “Now that’s exciting,” she said. Even shorter, PINK KISS Japanese anemone (Anemone ‘PKAN’ PP24023) only grows eight inches tall and four inches wide.
And unique can be a plant that packs punch for floral arrangements, like CHERRY BERRIES WINTERGREEN (Gaultheria procumbens ‘GaulSid5’). Courtney said, “It’s more compact, but with massive clusters of much bigger berries—like bubbles all over it.”
And the winners are . . .
Best in Show—BABYCAKES™ BLACKBERRY (Rubus x ‘APF-236T’) – This compact (three feet) thornless blackberry will flourish in a container, bringing fruit right up to your sunny patio or deck.
People’s Choice—LAVALAMP™ SUBLIME™ HYDRANGEA (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Kilmakilma’) – Strong stems support unusual white conical blooms with a glowing green center. It grows four to six feet in part sun to shade.
Check out the whole list. Then look for them in 2017. Better yet, ask your independent nursery to order what interests you. Next summer, you’ll have garden visitors saying, “Oh wow!”