With all of the hunkering-down the majority of us have done over the past year, it seems as though many had a good deal of time to look out at their back yards and decide some enhancement through the installation of new plantings. With all of this energy to improve our landscapes, it is disheartening to consider the fact that the 2021 Northwest Flower & Garden Show, the second largest and No. 1 rated floral event in the country, will miss its February appointment in Seattle for the first time in its 27 years of operation.
This column can’t make-up for the loss of three dozen display gardens on six acres of floor space at the Washington Convention Center, nor the 100 free seminars and workshops or the thousands of floral treasures in the garden marketplace. But, I like to know what new cultivars are ‘out there.’ Let’s take a look at some newly introduced trees, shrubs and perennials which caught my eye over the past few months. If you receive your newsletter via USPS, you will see only black and white pictures. If a couple of the plants mentioned catch your interest, check them out on the Internet for color and growing conditions. Or, I can email a copy of the original column to you.
The Eastern Redbud is far from being a new tree to us. In fact, it is native to eastern North America and is probably one of the easiest trees to grow. What is new is this latest cultivar, Cercis Canadensis ‘Flame Thrower.’ Introduced in 2020, this redbud has the traditional pink flowers in spring, which are followed by unique foliage which emerges burgundy-red, followed by bright yellow and green as it ages. The color is persistent throughout the season and often shows four to five different shades on a single branch. It grows to the perfect size for most urban gardens – big enough to provide some shade but not so big that it takes over the yard. A mature tree will reach 20’ x 15.’ Hardy in Zones 5 – 9.
When I lived in New England, a favorite tree was the native dogwood with its white flowers. Then, came the pink-flowering Satomi dogwood. Now, we have the introduction of Cornus florida ‘Raging Red.’ This dogwood sets itself apart from the herd with color, with its show of extremely deep red flowers in the spring. The flower display is followed by bright red foliage which emerges and transitions to a darker burgundy red and then to a darker green. Raging Red grows to about 25 ' tall and 20' wide and is good in USDA Zones 5 – 9. This baby does best with full morning sun and some afternoon protection.
The first new shrub on my list is Rhododendron Perfecto Mundo ‘Double Purple’ Azalea. After a springtime display, most azaleas blend into the green background of a yard. However, this azalea re-blooms its ruffled double purple-pink flowers in autumn when most gardens could use a little extra color. ‘Double Purple’ is such a compact cultivar that it would fit quite well in a mixed perennial border. It will be a show-stopper twice a year and a friendly backdrop for the rest of the year. This 3’ x 3’ azalea is lace bug-resistant, has improved hardiness and is and hardy in USDA Zones 6 – 9.
One of the reasons I like this new hydrangea cultivar is the name reminds me of my next door neighbor, Lodge #1800 Elks colleague, James Bickford! Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Wee Bit Grumpy’ (Bigleaf Hydrangea) is a dwarf variety with deep purple blue flowers that re-bloom all summer. Like most blue/purple hydrangeas, this variety requires acidic soil to keep its color. The use of aluminum sulfate will help to retain that color. If grown in alkaline soil, the flowers will still be dramatic, but with a bright red color instead of blue. Because this is a reblooming Hydrangea, pruning isn’t recommended unless the plant has been damaged. Grumpy’s ultimate size will be 2’ x 3.’ It is hardy to USDA Zones 5 – 9. Apply a rose fertilizer in the early spring and then again in late spring to encourage more blooms later in the season.
Most of us have a shady spot somewhere in the yard (if not the entire yard). The new perennial, Brunnera macrophylla ‘Queen of Hearts,’ (Heartleaf Brunner) might just become one of your new best friends. It is a hardy, rhizomatous, herbaceous perennial, with sprays of Forget-Me-Not-type baby blue flowers in spring. But, the flowers probably aren’t what you’ll grow it for. It’s the leaves that steal the show. The Queen produces bigger, bolder leaves, with a stronger silver overlay on a dark green background than does the old ‘Jack Frost.’ This shade-loving, deer resistant, rabbit resistant, slug resistant perennial will make a statement with its color and texture. Queen of Hearts sizes out to approximately 16” x 24” and is hardy to USDA Zones 3 – 8.
The purple coneflower has come a long way in the last fifteen years with the addition of a wide spectrum of new colors. My choice for 2021’s best candidate is Echinacea purpurea ‘Yellow Rainbow Marcella.’ The bicolor flowers display the colors of Arizona sunsets I have experienced in early autumn RV road trips. Raspberry pink surrounds the seed cones with petals which transition from a muted orange and on to a golden yellow. Whether you play off one color or the other, there are so many ways to use this plant in a sunny spot. This sweetie will grow to 15” x 24” and is hardy in USDA Zones 4 – 9. Marcella attracts pollinators, makes a good cut flower and is deer resistant. It is also good source of food for the birds in winter. Not a bad deal for the price.
As the name might suggest, this new cultivar, Salvia x ‘Back to the Fuchsia’ (Sage) has deep pink flowers that really show up well against its dark gray-green leaves. So if you’re looking for an alternative to the standard Salvia colors, this may be your plant. Like most Salvias, it is easy to grow, is drought-tolerant, attracts pollinators and hummingbirds, and is deer- and rabbit-resistant. Cut it back after it blooms the first time to encourage a second round of flowers in late summer. Growing to a 2’ x 2’ upright clump, this sage would be great for borders, in drifts or as a container plant. Consider it hardy in USDA Zones 3 – 9
The days are slowly getting longer. Find your new plants and Happy Gardening to you!
Do you have a topic to suggest or questions concerning your vegetables, perennials, landscaping, etc? If so, send them to the Woodinville Weekly’s Master Gardener, ‘The Garden Guy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.