Plant Preview

Welcome to Plant Preview, a blog dedicated to helping gardeners learn about gardening techniques and preview new plant cultivars. Read about new plants here first and hear how your "comrades in compost" are making use of new plant introductions in their gardens and landscapes. Blog author Geri Laufer is a life-long dirt gardener, degreed horticulturist, author and former County Extension Agent. Plant Preview is copyrighted by Geri Laufer.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Twist of Lime™ Variegated Abelia Dances through the Landscape

      A new introduction by Garden Debut, Twist of Lime™ Variegated Abelia is a high-accent, low maintenance selection for the border or large containers. An outstanding choice, this pretty summer cooler is a compact, evergreen shrub with glossy variegated leaves that bring added value to the garden. the leaves are bright yellow with green centers when young, maturing later in the season to a rich ivory and green. 
      Another plus, Twist of Lime™ Abelia produces a heavy bloom of fragrant white-tinged-pink clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers (to 5/8 inch long) which appear over a long and continuous period from late spring to fall and are attractive to pollinators and hummingbirds. Dusty pink “ruffs” of sepals last even longer, after the petals are gone.
     Twist of Lime's botanical name is Abelia x grandiflora ‘Gretol’. It has no serious insect or disease problems and is useful as a specimen or grouped in shrub borders or foundations. It is also effective when massed as a shrubby ground cover, particularly on slopes or banks where plants also can provide erosion control. Twist of Lime™ Abelia may be used as a low, informal hedge in southern areas where winter die-back is not a concern, although plants lose their attractive graceful shape if pruned or sheared. Twist of Lime™ is also a creative choice for permanent containers on terraces and balconies. 
Look for this new Abelia in garden centers this spring in the Garden Debut pot.   

Friday, March 19, 2010

Signs of Spring

All week I have been commenting on Facebook and  happily tweeting
about the signs of Spring. Foremost are the warm sun and soft breezes (finally!), made for luxuriating and gardening.  Although the first Narcissus ('Rijnveld's Early Sensation') opened back on January 4 and are just now fading, additional trumpets have been opening all month, and the incredibly fragrant Hyacintha Blue 'Delft' are adding scent all over the garden.

Chaenomales speciosa 'Nivalis" white Quince is in full flower at the corner of the house (albeit 3 months late), while

the Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten Roses) look even better now that I have trimmed off a few winter-burned leaves, allowing the flowers to take center stage a' la Rosemary Verey.

The Iris unguicularis has 5 blooms today (admittedly late for the winter-blooming Algerian Iris), Iberis sempervirens (Candytuft) is opening its white flowers, as is the unfortunate-smelling Pyrus calleryana (Bradford Callery Pear) futher down the street. Forsythia and Star and Saucer Magnolia are all in bloom.

Viburnum dentatum and Aesculus pavia buds are swelling into leaves.

Hydrangea quercifolia leaves look less like silver candles (that was so last week) and more like young leaves coated with pearlescence. The Oakleaf hydrangea is a wonderful native addition to the garden with 4 seasons of appeal, not the least this Spring.
Tomorrow is officially the First Day of Spring! What's going on in your neck of the woods? 

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Ever Blooming Kokomo Sunset(TM) Daylily Challenges Old Stella d'Oro

Tough as Nails, Reliable Daylilies

If there ever was a sure thing in the gardening world, it has to be daylilies. They are easy to grow, drought-tolerant perennials and are a familiar sight in gardens around the country. They tolerate a wide range of soils, are not troubled by diseases or pests, and bloom faithfully every summer, typically around Father’s Day in Atlanta. They also thrive in containters, great for gardeners with limited space.

Their botanical name, Hemerocallis, means “beauty for a day”. It’s true, each flower lasts only one day. But since there are many buds on each flowering stalk, the blooming season for individual plants lasts several weeks, as they open one-by-one in turn. The American Hemerocallis Society lists thousands of named daylily varieties.

The most common way to group daylilies used to be by season of bloom: early, mid-season, or late. However, the "ever blooming" category surmounts this classification. Arguably the most well know of these daylilies was “Stella d’Oro” with small, 2-3 inch and glaring “school bus yellow” flowers. Move over, Stella. A new introduction by Garden Debut(R) launching this spring brings added value.

Kokomo Sunset(TM) Daylily is a win-win for gradeners and the landscape industry with three seasons of bloom through 9+ months. The continously reblooming, carefree daylily delivers brightly colored, 4-inch, lightly ruffled golden flowers with a burgundy red eye. Bloom starts 6 to 8 weeks early, during cool spring nights, a plus for gardeners and for retailers whose customers will be captivated by the colorful display on their springtime shopping trips. Short grassy foliage is rust resistant and compact plants make a welcome addition to the perennial border.   

Normal daylilies with loads of smaller flowers have 22 chromosomes and are called “Diploids”. “Tetraploids” have double the number, with 44 chromosomes and are noticeably more vigorous, with larger, more intensely colored flowers on stronger scapes. Kokomo Sunset(TM) Daylilies are vigorously growing Tetraploids with a heavier substance.

Daylilies flower best when planted in sun (6 hours/day). They prefer moist, yet well-drained soil. Amend the soil with compost when first planting, and space plants 12 to 18 inches apart. Plant at the same level they were growing in the pots, or with bare root daylilies, plant the crown about an inch beneath the soil. Water in thoroughly, mulch, and later scratch some compost in around the root zone once a year. But if you cannot meet these conditions, go ahead and plant daylilies just about anyplace, under any conditions including large containers, and they will do their best to provide you with a marvelous show.

Look for Kokomo Sunset(TM) Daylilies from Garden Debut(R) in garden centers this spring. I'm getting some for my garden.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Train a Tree Form Lavender Falls Wisteria

Garden Debut is introducing the beautiful reblooming Lavender Falls Wisteria in Spring 2010. To train a young Lavender Falls Wisteria vine into a tree form, first pound a strong, 5-foot post or pipe into the soil next to the plant. Choose the most vigorous, strongest stem to train vertically, and prune back all others flush with the main stem. Use soft ties to train the selected stem upright on the stake, supporting it so it will grow a single trunk. 
Throughout each season, keep an eagle eye out for lateral shoots and prune them to maintain the single-stem tree effect. When the wisteria reaches the desired height (typically 4-5 feet) pinch out the growing tip in order to promote branching at the top forming a small tree.

Once the tip is pruned out, lateral branches will form a head or crown, dripping with lavender flower trusses. Over the years, the Wisteria will mature, developing a 4 - 6 inch trunk. The advantage of using Lavender Falls Wisteria is its continual bloom throughout the season.Underplant with Homestead Purple Verbena to echo the color and to form a protective planting ring to protect the trunk from lawnmower blight.
(Image credits: Drawing after, Lavender Falls Wisteria photo from Garden Debut.)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Too Much Chocolate?

      Just last Tuesday I attended the Culinary Historians of Atlanta meeting to explore the history of chocolate. Culinary Anthropologist Deb Duchon gave a presentation entitled "Chocolate in the Wake of Christopher Columbus" and told us that the demand for chocolate is increasing but the locations where the Cacao trees may be grown is finite. Evidently Cocao trees are hard to grow, requiring a hot, humid climate that never falls below 65 degrees and has approximately 80 inches/year rainfall. This is mainly found within 20 degrees latitude of the equator. Furthermore, trees must be sheltered from wind and shaded from the sun. Deb told us that chocolate chocolate from Hawaii is comparatively expensive because it must be grown in greenhouses, lest it get too cold.

Ripe Cacao pod grows right out of the trunk. Inside are cocoa beans and cocoa butter.
       We learned interesting factoids like Kit Kat is the top chocolate bar seller world wide (often flavored with wasabi or green tea for exotic markets). We learned that Mayan noblemen drank cocoa flavored with hot peppers from ceremonial vessels 4,000 years ago, and that when the Europeans arrived, they jazzed it up with sugar, anise, cinnamon, vanilla, flour and eggs to make a hot chocolate beverage.

Array of chocolates from many countries with green apple slices (far right) to cleanse the palate between each taste!
       The grand finale was the chocolate tasting! We sampled 10 types of 65% Cacao bittersweet chocolate single bean varietals from all over the world, generously donated by Guittard. My favorites were from Venezuela, Columbia and the Ivory Coast. Other locations included Bali, Ecuador, Ghana, Madagascar, Peru, and Sao Tome, and I sampled them all.
     I never would have believed it before last week, but there really is such a thing as too much chocolate! I had a headache and queasy feeling the following morning, like a hangover, but from chocolate! I'm ready for some more, now though. 
      What's your favorite flavor, dark or milk chocolate?