new plants

Proven Winners National Plants of the Year 2019

Its a bold branding choice…

But their approach seems to be paying off, and I can only conclude that its because their testing and quality control measures live up to their marketing skills.

www.provenwinners.com

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Why Proven Winners?

OK, lets be honest, it does feel good when you show up at client’s house with plants in the distinctive white Proven Winners containers – after all it tells the client that the plant is a winner and maybe you’re a bit of a winner as well. They cost a bit more – sometimes a lot more – so what are you paying for and how have they been proven to be “winners”?

The Proven Winners website lays it out like this:

It All Starts With a Better Plant

The right plant for all places: A plant with poor genetics or a limited range of performance requires more chemical inputs to survive and perform. Proven Winners searches the world to find and select plants which are clearly superior to others of their type in our trials in Michigan, New Hampshire, California, Germany, Japan, and Florida. This selection process translates into better performance for the home owner with fewer chemical inputs. These plants are more resistant to disease and insect pests, have heat and humidity tolerance and the broadest geographic range of superior performance. All of which means they require fewer insecticides and fungicides, perform well at lower fertility levels, and overall are just tougher, proven performers.

Start healthy – stay healthy: In addition to strenuous testing for consumer performance, Proven Winners goes the extra step in protecting our plants and the consumers who use them. Every Proven Winners plant has been screened of all plant disease and viral organisms. It is not a fast or inexpensive process and usually amounts to about $5,000.00 per plant. Why do we do it? So that when the plants arrive at your local garden center, we know we have done everything possible to assure our consumers of the healthiest plant possible. It is really a simple concept – the gardener is more likely to succeed and value Proven Winners if they start with the healthiest plant possible, and we want people to remember Proven Winners as the best plants they have grown! Hence the slogan: A Better Garden Begins with a Better Plant.

They also explain their sustainability practices, including ensuring that their branded containers can be recycled by the homeowner in their normal recycling stream.

Also

Saving energy: Proven Winners greenhouse facilities are equipped with energy efficient lighting to help save energy. Plus, the material used in our greenhouse structures itself is highly energy efficient, meaning that at many times of year, the sun is our main source of energy and heat! And, many of our facilities are equipped with energy curtains that conserve heat during cold weather and provide shade on sunny days

Saving water: Proven Winners greenhouse facilities recapture and reuse significant amounts of water. Many of our greenhouse facilities are equipped with flood floors that reuse water. Also, in our production process we group plants according to water needs and soil type, allowing us to deliver the right amount of water needed by each plant – resulting in little waste. And, our high tech watering systems reduce overall waste of water and fertilizer.

Shipping More Locally: Proven Winners companies are located strategically throughout North America to provide young plants to finished growers that can serve their own local retail markets. This means that finished plants do not need to travel far to reach the end consumer.

Sustainability is what has sometimes been lacking in the green industry, so their practices are important and impressive. I imagine that all of these measures contribute now, or will in the near future, to managing the bottom line and to ensuring that plants arrive at their destinations more alive than dead.

…Proven Winners – “trialed and tested for gardening success like no other”

Nepeta X ‘Cat’s Pajamas’

Nepeta X ‘Cat’s Pajamas’

Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora ‘Little Quick Fire’

Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora ‘Little Quick Fire’

I guess for me the bottom line is this: I don’t believe that there is necessarily a “right plant for all places” - I think that kind of “Home Depot”-like mentality can be dangerous. All places are different, so our plant knowledge has to be broad and deep in order to be successful. But Proven Winners plants are high quality, healthy and you usually can’t go wrong if you choose one.

That being said, Proven Winners has instituted a program called “National Plants of the Year”

Proven Winners National Plants of the Year 2019

Visit the website to see information about these plants.

https://www.nationalplantoftheyear.com/

Candidates for Proven Winners’ National Plants of the Year are judged stringently by growers, retailers and home gardeners against the following criteria:

• Easy to grow

• Iconic

• Readily available

• Outstanding landscape performance

Annual of the Year: LEMON CORAL™ SEDUM (Zones 7 – 11)

Chartreuse foliage; same Sedum species as ‘Anglelina’. PW describe it as growing up to 10” tall and 14” wide.

Perennial of the Year: SUMMERIFIC® 'BERRY AWESOME' HIBISCUS (Zones 4 – 9)

Perennial hibiscus is a really great addition to moist areas in a sunny garden bed. Fast growers like this cultivar are prized because they have some “presence” in the summer before they bloom. This one has lavender flowers – a nice addition to the white- or red-flowering versions that are commonly planted.

Landscape Shrub of the Year: LOW SCAPE MOUND™ ARONIA (Zones 3 - 9)

Aronia is a native plant workhorse – not overly showy but with its moments – like great fall color and berries for the birds. This particular cultivar is described by PW as only growing “to 24” tall and 26” wide, doesn’t require pruning.” This would be a welcome addition to large areas where lots of shrubs are being planted – less pruning makes eveyone happier and the plant will also pack more bang for the buck in terms of fall color and berries because it is more compact. This cultivar has been available in the Niursery trade for a couple of years and has made me willing to plant aronia again.

Hosta of the Year: SHADOWLAND® 'AUTUMN FROST' HOSTA (Zones 3 – 9)

PW says “'Autumn Frost' brings light to shady spots with its broad, glowing yellow margins and frosty blue centers. …it typically grows to 12” tall and 24” wide. Plus, it's super cold hardy, returning reliably every year even in -40° temperatures.”

Mostly we can’t install hostas because of deer predation, but when we can we always love a new and interesting color and habit. There isn’t anything that adds more beauty to a shade garden (except hellebores) – although hostas do turn to snot at the first frost.

Rose of the Year: AT LAST® ROSA (Zones 5 – 9)

A fragrant Knock-Out-like rose? This is the holy grail for many landscape designers, who want the reliability, disease resistance and flower power of Knock Out roses and have resigned themselves to no fragrance. But I say – why have a rose if it isn’t fragrant? Maybe this cultivar will do the trick … worth a try certainly.

PW says:

“This rose combines the romance and fragrance of a fully-petaled tea rose and the no-nonsense practicality of a disease resistant landscape rose. It will bloom non-stop from late spring until frost with distinctive soft pink to sunset orange tones. Growing up to 4’ tall and just as wide…”

Hydrangea of the Year: FIRE LIGHT® HYDRANGEA PANICULATA (Zones 3 – 8)

At first I said to myself - do we really need another two-tone PG hydrangea?!? I was leaning towards saying no, we don’t, until I saw the pictures of this variety in one of the test gardens posted by Tim Wood whose trial gardens are in Michigan. It made all the others around it look pretty weak (thats the third picture in the series below). Fire Light gets pretty huge (up to 6' tall and 6’ wide) but has strong stems that hold the flowers upright.

Flowering Shrub of the Year: SONIC BLOOM® WEIGELA (Zones 4 – 8)

Weigela is definitely an “old-fashoned” shrub– its lovely in bloom but has an unruly habit that demands regular pruning. The flowers are nice, but the rest of the plant is pretty boring. One thing it has going for it is that deer don’t seem to favor it. I’ve planted a couple of different Weigela cultivars over the last few years – those with colored leaves and/or compact habits. Ideally, the burgundy-leafed cultivars could take the place of ‘Concorde’ barberry – I’m still not totally convinced of that although I don’t plant barberry anymore anyway.

This new series of “Sonic Bloom” weigelas from PW are said to rebloom “strongly” from midsummer to frost. That would be a good thing for a shrub border. (IF they really do rebloom - the boomerang (bloomerang?) lilacs seem less than impressive where I’ve used them). PW cultivars are: Ghost®, Pearl, Pink, Pure Pink and Red.

Adam Wheeler - Horticulturalist at Broken Arrow Nursery

PLANT GEEKS ARE US

That was the title of Adam Wheeler’s presentation at the New York Botanical Gardens earlier this month. He shared with us some of his favorites from the selection of plants that Broken Arrow Nursery propagates and sells.

Here’s how Adam Wheeler is described on the Broken Arrow Nursery website:

Adam started playing with plants at Broken Arrow in 2004 after completing his BS degree in Urban Forestry and Landscape Horticulture at the University of Vermont. His favorite responsibilities at the nursery include plant propagation and the acquisition and development of new plants. He is a past recipient of the Young Nursery Professional Award from the New England Nursery Association and is the current Vice President of the North American Maple Society. He loves to share his passion for plants through photography and educational outreach. As a result, he lectures widely on a variety of subjects and is also an adjunct lecturer at Naugatuck Valley Community College and the Berkshire Botantical Garden. With his spare time he enjoys cultivating his eclectic collection of rare and unusual plants, rock climbing and competitive giant pumpkin growing!

Also important to know: they grow their own Nursery stock - this is somewhat unusual and it provides you with (1) a great source of information about the characteristics of the plant and (2) assurance that the plant will be “hardy” in our area. I also had a look at their website and there are LOTS and LOTS of other trees and shrubs to love that they sell. I stuck a few of the ones I would go for at the end.

Broken Arrow Nursery www.brokenarrownursery.com

Here are some of the trees and shrubs Adam Wheeler highlighted: (Pictures appear below descriptions)

Acer longipes ‘Gold Coin’ (‘Gold Coin’ Chinese Maple)

“A vibrant maple offering up high glamour leaves that emerge with soft burgundy tones before quickly moving to rich golden-orange colors. The palm-shaped leaves are about 4" in diameter and hold their color deep into summer. Plants develop a shrubby canopy reaching 12-15' tall when mature. Availability has been limited due to the difficulty of propagation. That said, plants should be prized as they're certainly among the best of the gold foliage maples available.”


Acer X ‘Purple Haze’ - A hybrid of paperbark maple X sycamore maple

Purple Haze Hybrid Maple

“A curious and unexpected hybrid maple that combines the immaculate pedigree of the paperbark maple (Acer griseum) with the vigor and landscape durability of sycamore maple (A. pseudoplatanus). The result is a strong growing, non-weedy small specimen tree boasting three-lobed green leaves backed with a burgundy infused reverse. In autumn, flawless scarlet autumn tones set the garden afire. Plants can be expected to reach 15’ in height after a decade of effort and will certainly be valued for accent, flair and overall plant geekyness (not to be confused with gawkiness or gooeyness).”

Catalpa cultivars - he showed us one with burgundy leaves that is pollarded each year, making it more like a shrub with leaves larger than normal. It can also be left as a regular tree.

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Cornus cultivars - cultivars of Cornus florida, Cornus kousa and shrub forms of Cornus, including Cornus florida ‘Eternal’ pictured below :


Larix cultivars: Broken Arrow has quite a number of Larix cultivars, including several weeping variants. These variants can be trained into waterfalls, “Cousin Itts”, ground covers or combinations but apparently do need to be staked. One thing Mr. Wheeler told us that I for sure didn’t know (nor have seen) is that Larix is quite suitable as a hedge - got some pix from the internet …. - wouldn’t this be better than privet and maybe easier to manage than beech?


Magnolia cultivars - if you are a fan of magnolias, Broken Arrow has a whole lot of different varieties, including Magnolia x soulangiana 'Milliken' (Milliken Saucer Magnolia)

“A unique, compact selection found as a witches' broom by Greg Williams and Sue Milliken near Rhinebeck, NY. Plants are compact and dense with short internodes and a rounded outline. In spring they flower profusely with standard sized, whitish-pink flowers. A real gem likely found nowhere else!”



Nyssa sylvatica cultivars: (Really, should any landscape be without Black Tupelo in some form or another? I say NO)

Nyssa sylvatica 'Autumn Cascade' (Autumn Cascade Weeping Black Tupelo)

“An elegant, weeping selection that we introduced from Australia a few years back. Plants develop excellent red, orange and yellow fall color. If a tree form is preferred, some staking is required to develop and maintain a central leader.”

Nyssa sylvatica 'Sheri's Cloud’ (Sheri's Cloud Black Tupelo)

“Can you say amazing? That's what we said when we first saw this spectacular clone of black tupelo! Imagine, if you will, light green leaves edged with a bold, creamy-white margin! Add to that dazzling scarlet and hot pink, bi-colored fall color and you've successfully envisioned 'Sheri's Cloud'. A brilliant find from the wilds of Arkansas and a welcome addition to the growing selection of cultivars.”

Nyssa sylvatica 'Wildfire' (Wildfire Black Tupelo)

“A dazzling selection offering startling burgundy-red new growth that is present as long as new growth is being produced. Plants exhibit exceptional vigor and bright scarlet-red fall color.”

Nyssa sylvatica 'Zydeco Twist' (Contorted Black Tupelo)

“A distinct and downright cool black gum showcasing stems that twist and spin in all directions. They’re quite akin to Harry Lauder’s walking stick and are certainly not what most have come to expect from this fantastic species! Regardless, this is a striking plant for those looking for a fun addition to their gardens.”



Some shrubs of interest that Mr. Wheeler talked about are shown below, including a “fuzzy-leafed” hydrangea that deer may not eat (?? don’t know but I may be willing to give it a try since they don’t usually like fuzzy leaves)

Disanthus

Disanthus cercidifolius (Disanthus)

“An exceptionally choice and uncommon member of the witch hazel family. One of the most spectacular shrubs for fall color display. The blue-green, heart-shaped leaves transform to brilliant red, purple, and orange tones in late September and early October. After the foliage falls to the ground, intriguing, small, delicate reddish-purple flowers appear. Thrives in moist, acidic, well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. Makes a great addition to any woodland garden. 6-10'.”

Hydrangea aspera

Hydrangea aspera var. villosa (Rough Leaf Hydrangea)

“A hydrangea to die for that takes a step apart from the classic vision that most associate with this valuable genus. The long, oval leaves of the rough leaf hydrangea are greenish-blue and are covered with dense hairs that add a felted textural quality to the garden. In late summer, stylish lavender-mauve, lacecap flowers decorate the stems and create a thrilling display for an extended time. Like most hydrangeas, average to rich soil is preferred with consistent moisture though spring and summer. If happy, plants are vigorous growers forming a rounded framework to 10’ in height.”

Ilex verticillata ‘Sun Splash’ - a female Winterberry with gold coloring on the leaves and good fall color in the winter - would make winterberry less “boring” in the mixed border.

Salix species - many many willows are out there and are quite useful if you have the right place. Mr. Wheeler highlighted two willows: Silver Creeping Willow (he showed an area next to a parking lot that looked like it would be miserable lonely but was planted with a mass of creeping willow that looked beautiful and healthy and he said it was “care-free) and ‘Mt. Also’ Giant Pussy Willow - just look at the pictures of the catkins shown below and then imagine this mixed in with Black Pussy Willow - ooh la la!

Salix areneria (Salix repens ‘Arenaria’) (Silver Creeping Willow)

“A choice willow that develops a low mounding form of finely textured, felted, silver-gray leaves. Plants prefer moist locations in full sun and make ideal contrast elements at the front of a border or at the edge of a pond. 18”x 4’”


Salix gracilistyla ‘Mt. Aso’ (‘Mt. Asama’) (Mt. Aso Giant Pussy Willow)

“Magic to behold in spring when the glowing, rich-pink, felted catkins emerge from winter’s rest. The vigorous, 12-15’ male shrubs provide ample display in the garden and are equally impressive when used for cut branches. Attractive, blue-cast foliage adds color and presence to the landscape during the remainder of the growing season. This plant was previously thought to be a selection of Salix chaenomeloides but is more correctly listed as a selection of S. gracilistyla.”

Some other plants that I saw on the Broken Arrow website and that I covet based on pictures and descriptions:

Acer macrophyllum ‘Mocha Rose’ - a big leaf maple cultivar that seems to look ghostly and beautiful in the spring and reportedly has good fall color - but the main thing is I have never seen a tree that looks like this!


Acer pensylvanicum 'Erythrocladum' (Erythrocladum Striped Maple, Moosewood)

“A choice and unique selection of striped maple that is rarely offered due to its difficulty in propagation. Typical green and white-striped branches are present during warmer months. However, as cold weather commences the green portions of the branches turn spectacular shades of crimson-scarlet. The effect is amazing when set-off by fresh snowfall.”

Acer x conspicuum 'Phoenix' (Phoenix Maple)

“A show stopping maple forming a medium-sized shrub or small tree with glowing, white-striped, fire engine red winter twigs. One of the most striking plants in winter.”

“Conspicuum”: indeed!

Seems to give ‘Sango Kaku’ a run for its money!

Claudia West - a wondrous and enthusiastic horticulturalist with important ideas

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“ It’s very simple, I usually say: Plant more of the right kinds of plants. Replace the mulch with more ecological plants—meaning native and beneficial exotic species—that will dramatically help in creating better cities. Plant more plants!” – Quote from Claudia West

Thomas Rainer Planting Design

Thomas Rainer Planting Design

Claudia West is a particularly talented and effusive horticulturalist who is also a scientist and a great speaker. She spoke at the New York Botanical Garden two winters ago and gave the audience a lot of memorable “catchphrases” – most prominently “Plants Cover Ground” – say it with me, as she said, “Plants Cover Ground”. She explains her thinking in some of the book-tour-related interviews she’s given as well:

“Plants are really the best mulch on earth. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not against using mulch at all, but mulch should only be temporary in your garden, to fill gaps between plants until they are more established… [to] suppress maybe an early wave of sun-loving weed species. But then we really want plants to grow in as they can and cover that soil on their own. So really the best and most sustainable way of gardening is letting plants be the mulch that they’re designed to be. This is how nature works, this is how plants want to grow—that’s how they evolved to grow—and it definitely works way better.”

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing landscape designers today is the need to balance beauty with environmental concerns. Public institutions and private homeowners want plantings that please the eye and reconnect us to nature, but that also reduce chemical use, filter stormwater, sequester pollutants and carbon, cool urban temperatures, and provide habitat. The answer lies in a radical turn away from conventional horticultural practices, declare landscape architect Thomas Rainer and designer Claudia West, who advocate crafting communities of compatible species that will cover the ground in interlocking layers. – “Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes” is the subtitle of their book, Planting in a Post-Wild World published in 2015. It has been described by leading industry experts as a “game-changer” and “the universal how-to guide to sustainable landscaping.”

From the Washington Post

Why manicured lawns should become a thing of the past

By Adrian Higgins December 2, 2015

Many folks, not to mention homeowners associations, cling to that model of the American yard as one of clipped foundation shrubs, groomed lawns and trees with mulch circles. Naked soil must be blanketed spring and fall with shredded mulch. Fallen leaves are treated as trash.

The real gardening world left this fusty model years ago, embracing soft groupings of perennials, grasses and specimen trees and shrubs in a celebration of plants and a closer communion with nature.

…This premise is not entirely new: A generation ago, top designers were espousing “the New American Garden” with many of the same principles, of replacing lawns and shrubbery with perennials and ornamental grasses.

What has changed at the vanguard of garden design? Many more varieties of perennials are widely available now than in the 1990s and, moreover, the approach to planting design is changing fundamentally. Rainer, West and others are promoting a shift from clumping and grouping plant varieties to mixing them in a way that occurs in nature. Discrete clumps are replaced with interplanted varieties equipped by nature to live cheek by jowl.

“The key is to pay attention to how plants fit together,” Rainer said. “To pay attention to their shape and behavior.” This involves not only their growth patterns aboveground, but their root types, which permit plants that are surface-rooted, such as many ground covers, to coexist with deep-rooted meadow flowers and grasses.

They see the garden as no longer a collection of plants but rather a designed plant community. This is distilled into three layers. In a sunny, meadow-like garden, the uppermost layer takes the form of beefier structural perennials …(and ornamental grasses). The middle layer is the showiest and provides seasonal peaks with such things as daisies, daylilies, butterfly weeds or bee balms.

The most important layer, the ground cover, is the least showy. Forget tired spreads of English ivy or pachysandra; Rainer and West are thinking of sedges, small grasses, rushes. In shade gardens, the floor layer would consist of such woodland beauties as foamflower, trilliums, gingers and Allegheny spurge.

“The approach to ground cover is, for us, the single most important concept of creating a functioning plant community,” they write. “Think about seeing plants in the wild; there is almost never bare soil.”

The ground cover not only knits together the whole plant community physically and emotionally, but also performs an important horticultural function. Soil left bare will invite weeds, so we smother it in mulch, which has its value, but we keep piling it on for aesthetic rather than horticultural reasons. This is inherently unsustainable and expensive, and keeps lonely plantings in a perpetual state of establishment.

My theme for 2018 is to highlight different “groundcovers” – meaning plants that will spread to cover bare ground but will still co-exist happily with the rest of the plants in the community. As Roy Diblik says: “they share the space unselfishly”.

EXAMPLES:

Pycnanthemum muticum (Short-toothed Mountain Mint)

is an aromatic perennial wildflower. This mint relative bears oval toothed leaves on strong square stems. Butterflies and other pollinators love mountain mint. It is excellent at providing soil stabilization as well. In summer, plants are topped by dense rounded clusters of tiny white to lavender tubular flowers. The leaves surrounding the flower clusters are highlighted with silver. (Note: some people don’t like this look). Pollinators flock to the blooms in sunny gardens with average well drained soils.

Plants tolerate clay, heat and drought.

The aromatic foliage is unpalatable to deer, rabbits and other herbivores.

This rhizomatous species will ramble and expand to form colonies. The rhizomes are shallow, though, so unwanted plants are easy to pull.

Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 4-8.

Blooming lasts for about 6 weeks

Plants grow 2-3’ tall with 2’ spread.

The mountain mints are listed on many “Top Ten Plants for Pollinators” list. The dense head-like flower cymes make this plant a pollinator paradise. Native bees, beneficial wasps, flies, beetles, skippers and small butterflies (especially hairstreaks) frequent the blossoms.

In the 2013 Penn State Extension Service Pollinator Trial “88 pollinator-rewarding herbaceous perennial plants were assessed and promoted to growers, landscapers, nursery operators, and homeowners...” Pycnanthemum muticum was rated #1 for longevity of flowers and #1 for diversity of pollinators. It also attracted the greatest number of insects of any plant. During a 2 minute time period, 78 insects visited Pycnanthemum muticum including 19 bees and syrphid flies.

Salvia verticiliata ‘Endless Love’ (Endless Love Lilac Sage)

is an outstanding selection of this Old World native sage grown for its big, fuzzy, deep-green leaves and summer-long display of large, lavender-purple flower spikes. This is a distinctive sage and very different from the nemerosa types. This superb cultivar was introduced by European plantsman Piet Oudolf.

24" tall x 30-36" wide.

Hardy in zones 5 to 9

Deer resistant, bee friendly, rabbit resistant

Full sun or Morning sun and part shade afternoon

Will rebloom if spent flowers are clipped

Stachys monieri 'Hummelo' (Betony; sometimes also Lamb’s Ear)

Excellent for flowers and foliage, S. 'Hummelo' hosts a lovely display of lavender-purple flowers atop tall, leafless stems while the stoloniferous nature creates small mounding clumps. Selected for strong flower production, plant health, habit quality and winter hardiness. A true garden delight! And a Piet Oudolf introduction and staple of many of his gardens.

Spread 18 inches

Height 18-20 inches

USDA Hardiness Zone 4-8

Deer-resistant, full sun or part shade, used as a groundcover

Unlike Stachys byzantina (Lamb's Ear), this species forms large, rounded clumps of green, long and narrow, textured leaves. It is lovely even when it's not in bloom. From early thru midsummer, sturdy spikes of lavender-rose flowers shoot up through the foliage, putting on quite a display.

Though this plant is relatively unknown to many gardeners, it makes a unique addition to any sunny border. Once you try it, you'll see that it goes with just about everything else in the garden. It is very easy to grow and deserves to be planted more widely in American landscapes.

Stachys m. 'Hummelo' received the highest rating out of 22 Stachys studied in the Plant Evaluation Trials at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The trial was run from 1998-2004 by Richard G. Hawke. Both 'Helene von Stein' (aka 'Big Ears') and 'Silver Carpet' (the fuzzy silver-foliaged “Lamb’s Ear” that we’re probably more familiar with) also received very high scores.