Jennifer Schultz Nelson
Extension Educator, Horticulture
It's typical after the New Year for my mailbox to fill with catalogs promising the best and most beautiful new garden plants for the coming spring. This year the deluge of catalogs began in mid-December, the earliest ever for me. Quite frankly, there is not enough room in my yard to accommodate all the new choices the catalogs are offering. There's not enough room in this article to cover every new plant being offered either, but I will point out the plants that have caught my eye so far.
Tropical plants continue to be popular annuals in the landscape. Most of what we plant as annuals in our gardens are native to tropical regions, but in this case "tropicals" refers to the exotic, often large plants grown mostly for their foliage that look like they would be at home on a tropical island. Plants like banana, Colocasia (Elephant Ear), Alocasia, and Caladium all fit in this category.
As far as more traditional annuals such as flowering bedding plants, there are of course many new choices for 2010. Look for some of these selections at local garden centers in 2010:
There are of course many new shrubs and perennials new for 2010. Although they require a more substantial investment and commitment than annuals, you may find a few you have to find space for in your garden this year.
· Hosta 'Mighty Mouse'—This 8 inch tall Hosta has very substantial, thick leaves that resist nibbling from snails and slugs. The leaves are blue-green, edged in creamy yellow that mellows to white by midsummer.
· Hydrangea paniculata 'Little Lime™'—A dwarf version of the popular 'Limelight™', this plant only reaches heights of 3 to 5 feet. Flowers are lime green and age to shades of pink in the fall. It is also very drought tolerant.
· Echinacea—Breeders continue to introduce many new varieties of Echinacea, all alternatives to the wild-type purple flowered Echinacea purpurea. 'Coral Reef' and 'Hot Papaya' have bright orange pom pom-like flowers with a few longer petals that resemble tails. 'Firebird' and 'Summer Sun' have flowers that change color as they age. 'Firebird' starts out scarlet and ages to deep orange-red with a touch of rose. 'Summer Sun' opens red-orange and lightens to yellow-orange with age. There is some debate among horticulturalists as to the stability of all novel Echinaceas, including those not listed here. There are some reports of the novel varieties reverting back to the more common purple-flowers. It may be worth waiting to see which of the novel Echinaceas stand the test of time.
If you decide to order plants from mail order companies for your 2010 garden, place your order as soon as possible, despite the snow and cold outside. New plants are often the first to sell out. Pay attention to the size of plant offered to eliminate being unpleasantly surprised when you open the shipment this spring and find a teeny tiny plant where you thought a larger plant would be. Even if you don't decide to order from a catalog this winter, their colorful photos will remind you that spring is on its way, and give you a plant or two to look for this spring at local garden centers.