The third reason is that we must determine how these new plants will fare in diverse regions across Canada, areas with different climates and hardiness zones. So, I like to recommend new introductions that I’ve grown myself for retail sales or on which I’ve had favourable feedback from some of my customers. Without further delay, here are my new and nearly new plant picks for 2011.
Helleborus x sternii ‘Hot Flash’ (Zone 6)
Helleborus ‘Hot Flash’ has been selling steadily for us despite an absence of flowers. This cultivar grows more vigorously than the original hybrid and the silver-mottled foliage with red veining seems to be the main selling point – extending sales beyond the usual flowering period. That said, I expect the green flushed pink blooms will also be well received when they arrive. Height: 18"; spread: 24".
Kniphofia ‘Papaya Popsicle’ (Zone 6)
I was surprised how quickly these young plants bulked up, with many pots producing five to six flower stalks – a pretty impressive display for a one-gallon pot and a great selling feature. Combine this with its compact size, long blooming period (all summer), drought tolerance and deer resistance, and you have one of those “what more do you want” perennials that are bound to be bestsellers. Height: 12"; spread: 18".
Leucanthemum ‘Victorian Secret’ (Zone 5)
Most people complain that Shasta daisies either grow too tall or the flowers stink – this new cultivar does neither. The ruffled double white blooms of ‘Victorian Secret’ emit no odour and just keep coming all summer long. Height: 14"; spread: 20".
Sedum ‘Class Act’ (Zone 4)
Just when you thought there were too many sedums on the market, along comes one with such intense rose pink flowers, that it instantly becomes the centre of attention. Add an RHS Award of Merit and a compact, “non floppy” form and you have a real winner. Height 16"; spread 14".
Heuchera ‘Autumn Leaves’ (Zone 4)
Finally, we have a truly red heuchera, or at least for part of the year. ‘Autumn Leaves’ starts in spring with reddish-pink foliage overlayed in silver, transforming to taupe in summer and shifting to a dramatic ruby-red (with chocolate brown and black overtones) in fall, making it the perfect addition to those autumn planters. Height 8"; spread 15".
Heuchera ‘Havana’ (Zone 4)Another breakthrough heuchera with flowers that can actually rival the beautiful foliage, ‘Havana’ features eye-catching cerise pink blooms that literally glow over the lime-green foliage, with just a hint of silver highlights. In a world of far too many heuchera introductions, this one really stands out. Height 7"; spread 12".
Heucherella ‘Brass Lantern’ (Zone 4)
The glossy brass-coloured maple leaves with inset burgundy variegation are quite unique. Couple this with spikes of starry white flowers on red stems and you have a real showpiece for the partial shade garden. Height 20"; spread 24".
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Burgundy Bunny’ (Zone 5)
Every autumn I get dozens of customers who ask me if purple fountain grass or purple millet are hardy grasses, and every autumn I disappoint them with my reply to the negative. Enter ‘Burgundy Bunny’ (a sport of ‘Little Bunny’), a hardy Pennisetum with hints of red-tipped foliage in summer, shifting to dramatic burgundy tones from fall to frost. This dwarf ornamental grass with white to buff bottlebrush plumes is also great in containers. Height 16"; spread 16".
Buddleia Lo & Behold ‘Blue Chip’ (Zone 5)
The first miniature butterfly bush grows only 24 inches tall by about 30 inches wide. The lightly fragrant true blue flowers bloom continuously from early summer to fall, with no deadheading necessary. This dwarf shrub is great in containers, would make an ideal tall ground cover and is quite drought resistant once established. Height 24 to 30"; spread 1 to 2'.
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Invincibelle Spirit’ (Zone 3)
With any luck, there will be more of these pink versions of ‘Annabelle’ available this year. ‘Invincibelle Spirit’ blooms on new wood from early summer to frost with deep rose fading to soft pink blooms that are not affected by soil pH. Height 4'; spread 5'.
Calibrachoa ‘Blackberry Punch’ (Annual)
Calibrachoa, or Superbells, have become a staple of our planters and hanging baskets for good reason – they just bloom their hearts out. The nearly black blooms of this new cultivar are sharply contrasted with a yellow eye and an elegant violet edge. I expect this one to sell out quickly this spring. Height 8-14"; trails up to 36".