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Gazette Gardener: They’re thinking of spring and blooms

Nursery owners look ahead to hydrangeas and lilacs for next year’s gardens

Tuesday, October 27, 2009
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The  Bombshell hydrangea grows to about 3 feet in height and is a low-maintenance plant.
The Bombshell hydrangea grows to about 3 feet in height and is a low-maintenance plant.

This is the last garden column of the year. As the season winds down, the people who stock our local nurseries are busy placing orders for what they will carry next spring. So I asked a handful of nursery people: “What’s piqued your interest for 2010?”

Here are a few of the plants that have local green thumbs twitching in anticipation.

Not surprisingly, hydrangeas are on more than one list. So much has been done by hybridizers to make hydrangeas bloom bigger, longer and stronger. And in colors and sizes that are sure to fill many gardens’ needs.

Randy Herrington, nursery manager at Faddegon’s Nursery in Latham, noted two new hydrangeas as very promising. Herrington said that Capital Region gardeners love their hydrangeas. He said gardeners often come back from a vacation on Cape Cod looking to add hydrangeas to their landscape.

Next year, they might want to look for “Invincibelle Spirit,” a pink version of the well regarded “Annabelle” hydrangea or “Incrediball,” a white-flowered hydrangea with strong, stout stems that keep flowering stems from flopping over, even in the rain.

There are two characteristics that make “Invincibelle Spirit” special: the hot pink color and that it is a repeat bloomer from spring to frost. “Incrediball” has huge 12-inch-across flowers that start lime green before turning white. The shrub grows to a height of 5 feet.

Repeat lilacs

Two other plants Herrington believes will be popular next year are the repeat blooming lilacs: “Bloomerang” and “Josee.” Imagine being able to enjoy the scent of lilacs not only in May, when lilacs bloom profusely, but throughout the summer when these lilacs repeat bloom sporadically. That’s what these new introductions promise. Both are smaller shrubs than a standard lilac bush. “What’s not to love?” Herrington said.

A word of caution: Sometimes new introductions don’t live up to expectations. We will have to wait and see and gain experience by growing them locally. That said, it is still fun to see what is on the horizon.

Herrington isn’t the only one noting the new hydrangeas. Robin Wolfe, perennial manager at Wells Nursery on Van Vranken Avenue in Schenectady, also likes “Invincibelle Spirit” and another hydrangea called “Bombshell,” which grows up 3 feet tall, is 3 to 4 feet wide, well-branched and produces an abundance of white flowers.

“It has more flowers per plant than any other H. paniculata,” Wolfe read from the catalog description. It is also said to be low-maintenance requiring no pruning to keep the plant compact and tidy. Another hydrangea to watch is “Little Lime,” which has a great color and is a smaller version of the very popular “Limelight.”

More hydrangeas

John Kulak, owner of Kulak’s Nursery and Landscaping in Rexford, also thought highly of hydrangeas, especially: “Invincibelle Spirit,” “Color Fantasy” and “White Diamonds.”

“Color Fantasy,” which was introduced this fall, has red mophead blooms and shiny, green-black foliage. A compact variety, it will grow to 3 feet and might be the perfect choice for small gardens. In late summer the leaves turn a strong shade of red.

“White Diamonds” is a compact Hydrangea paniculata with very white panicles that turn pink in the fall. It is also small in stature, making it a good choice for tight spaces.

Like Herrington, Kulak also likes “Bloomerang,” the repeat blooming lilac.

Perennials that Wolfe believes are worthy of watching are the echinacea “Coral Reef,” a ligularia “Dragon’s Breath,” and the euphorbia “Breathless Blush.”

All three have the potential of being showstoppers. “Coral Reef” has two-toned double flowers with dark orange to coral rays combined with a coral red cone. “Dragon’s Breath” is a dramatic plant with deep green cut leaves and golden yellow flowers on purple black stems. It has an exotic, tropical look.

“Breathless Blush” euphorbia is similar to “Diamond Frost” but with flowers blushed pink and foliage accented by a dark purplish center. It fills in fast and displays a showy mass of self-cleaning, long-lasting flowers with low water needs and no deadheading.

Introducing cordylines

Rich Morris, founder of Toadflax Nursery in South Glens Falls, is looking forward to introducing his customers to two cordylines: “Red Splendor” and “Torbay Dazzler.” He has been growing them for two years and said, “These are great plants.” If you don’t know cordylines, they are a rugged tropical with high drama and make for a standout accent plant.

He suggested gardeners consider cordyline instead other spiking plants in containers. Cordylines have few pests and are more visually distinctive than the Dracaena spike typically combined with a geranium and vinca.

If you see plants you think are noteworthy as the catalogs roll in this fall, let me know. Part of the fun of armchair gardening is dog-earing catalog pages and dreaming about what we will do next season. Have a wonderful winter. Keep in touch and I will be back in the spring.

 
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