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!