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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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Scentimental Journey with Sweet Treat™ Lilac


Beloved Lilac fragrance is combined with superior disease resistance and red to burgundy fall color.


The intoxicatingly sweet lilac fragrance so beloved of generations is enveloping gardeners through an improved selection known as Sweet Treat™ Lilac from Garden Debut®. Heavy with a profusion of blooms and redolent with a fragrance more perfumed than roses, this selection has also proven marvelously disease resistant, performing flawlessly in the brutal heat and humidity of lower Midwestern summers.

Sweet Treat™ Lilac presents a profusion of fragrant blossoms each spring that are dark lavender in bud and fade to a soft lavender-ice blue when fully opened. The plant is particularly floriferous when planted in full sun, and its fragrant blossom trusses stand out beautifully against dark green, glossy leaves. But there’s more. Sweet Treat™ has the best fall leaf color of any Lilac, when its green foliage turns a deep burgundy red, adding color in the autumn landscape.

Sweet Treat™ Lilac is well-branched, compact and upright-rounded in form, slowly growing to a height of five to six feet tall and a mature spread of four to six feet, with foliage stretching to the ground. It is small enough to be ideal for nearly every garden. Sweet Treat™ Lilac makes a wonderful addition to shrub borders or foundation plantings where proximity to a gate, walkway, patio or entrance door provides perfumed enjoyment. It grows well in a wide range of soil conditions and is hardy in Zones 3-8, making it the most versatile lilac in the country. 


Sweet Treat™ is a great improvement over the well-known variety of Dwarf Korean Lilac, Syringa pubescens subsp. patula 'Miss Kim'. Sweet Treat™ Lilac reliably displays clean foliage and vigor with no disease or die back during the hottest summer temperatures, that normally sound the death knell for the older variety.

Statistics Chart for Sweet Treat™ Lilac, Syringa patula ‘Greswt’ PPAF 
Category:
Deciduous flowering shrub known for sweet fragrance
Mature Height:
5 – 6  feet
Mature Spread:
4 – 6 feet
Mature Form:
Rounded-upright,  multi-stemmed shrub, easy care
Growth Rate:
Slow to Moderate
Sun Exposure:
Plants require full sun for best flowering
Soil Moisture:
Well-drained soils, shrub is drought resistant; no wet soils
Soil Type:
Loam, Sand or Clay; wide range from dry to moist
Flower Color:
Dark lavender in bud, opening to light lavender or ice blue; sweetly- scented; a hummingbird magnet
Flower Arrangement:
Individual ½-inch tubular flowers arranged in dense, terminal clusters (upright panicals 3" in length) envelop the shrub with flowers. 
Profuse bloomer, flowers each spring, flowers from late April to May
Fragrance:
Powerful sweetly-scented aroma perfumes the entire landscape
Wildlife:
Flowers attractive to wildlife, hummingbirds, honey bees; deer like to eat the flowers
Summer Leaf Color:
Deep green, glossy leaves showcase the blooms
Fall Color:
Red to burgundy fall color; Best color of any Lilac!
Disease Resistance:
Resistant to powdery mildew; vigorous with no disease or die back even in the hottest, most humid summers
pH Level:
5.5 – 8.5 
Zones
3 – 9, extraordinarily wide range makes it the most versatile Lilac
Heredity:
U.S., Greenleaf Nursery Company, Park Hill, OK

When performance counts, use Garden Debut® introductions.

#     #     #

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Native Shade Tree Snow Flurries™ Black Gum Has Variegated Leaves


Attractive white-margined leaves on this native shade tree are unusual.

Anticipating the first flurries this summer! An easy-grow native shade tree, Snow Flurries™ Black Gum has unbeatable green and white summer color, rare in the world of shade trees. Snow Flurries™ has shiny, variegated leaves with generous white margins and green centers and is riveting in the landscape. Garden Debut® expects a blizzard of orders once this extraordinary plant hits the market. Overall, the variegated leaves are narrower and smaller than the species, turning a ruddy color in early autumn.

The tree reaches 30 – 40 feet in height, with gracefully draped lower limbs creating an oval form. This Garden Debut® introduction is easy-care and trouble-free. Snow Flurries™ has clean leaves without leaf spot and with no significant pest problems. Aided by its deep tap root, it is adaptable to an extremely wide variety of soil moisture conditions from poorly drained soils and low spots subject to periodic flooding, through average garden soils, and also on dry sites.

Small flowers are a great nectar source and attract honey bees resulting in prized Black Gum or “Tupelo” honey. Small, dark blue, football-shaped fruits are a favorite of birds and wildlife in August and September, and do not stain decks or paving.  Left, leafing out in early spring. 
                                                






Statistics Chart for Snow Flurries Black Gum, Nyssa sylvatica ‘Grechrist’ PPAF
Plant Category:
Native tree, budded cultivar
Mature Height:
Reaches 30 – 40 feet
Mature Spread:
25 - 30 feet
Mature Form:
Oval
Branching:
Lower branches with graceful drape
Growth Rate:
Moderate, faster growth on moist soils
Sun Exposure:
Full sun (recommended)  to part shade
Soil Type:
Loam, Sand, Clay
Soil Moisture:
Native to wet soils; adaptable to periodic flooding; also grows in dry locations; grows readily in a wide variety of soil moisture levels
Flower Color:
Greenish white, insignificant flowers; excellent nectar source for honey bees resulting in prized Black Gum or “Tupelo” honey
Bloom Season:
 April – May
Foliage:
Shiny, medium green leaves with white margins are smaller than the species, 1” wide by  2.5 – 3 “ long
Fall Color:
 Ruddy red
Fruit pods:
Small, Dark Blue Football-shaped Drupe, August to September; does not stain sidewalks; birds and wildlife love them 
Bark:
 Dark Gray to Brown, Thick, Fissured
Root:
Taproot, patented variety is budded onto Black Gum seedling rootstock 
pH Level:
 5 – 8, very adaptable
Zones:
 4 – 9, wide range
Heredity:
U.S., Greenleaf Nursery Company, Park Hill, OK

When performance counts, use Garden Debut® introductions!

#     #     #

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fire Dragon® Shantung Maple Flames Red


Maple Selection Brings “New England Red” Color to Midwestern Fall Landscapes

Fire Dragon® Shantung Maple delivers vivid reds and dazzling scarlets rarely seen in the Midwest or lower-Midwest landscape in autumn. A tough, hardy and well-behaved mid-size maple (to 35 feet), Fire Dragon® is the first introduced selection of Acer truncatum, commonly known as Purple-blow or Shantung Maple (pronounced ‘Shan-doon’ ).

Fire Dragon® was selected from thousands of seedlings for its glorious, brilliant red fall color so elusive to the lower-Midwest. Finding a consistent red for hot, sunny climates has long been a challenge for plains states gardeners and designers. With the straight species, new spring foliage is a beautiful reddish-purple leaf color in spring (“purple-blow”), turning to dark green for summer, then presenting brilliant yellow color in fall. However, each autumn Fire Dragon® reliably provides the sought-after, luminous reds found in New England to the Midwest (and the rest of the country). Grower Keith Johansson has observed three different autumn reds (anthocyanin compounds based on soil pH and environmental factors) including: bright, true, cardinal red; currant red with Chinese yellow margins; and a compelling reddish-orange. 

Spring and early summer leaf color on Fire Dragon® turns from burnt orange to pink and rose-red, and then to bright red when growing vigorously in May. Red pigments help protect the new leaves from ultra-violet rays and from insects until they can harden-off.  Summer leaf color is a pleasing, sparkling green on thick, waxy leaves; lowered transpiration rates help trees thrive in hot summers. New summer growth put on by this cultivar is typically a dark red throughout the season, although it may vary with temperature, soil pH, soil nutrients or levels of sunshine, and can range from dark red to brighter red to mostly green.

The elegant, distinctive leaf shape of Fire Dragon® is reminiscent of curly parsley. The species name, truncate, refers to a broad, flat leaf base at the petiole, however, the two basal lobes of Fire Dragon® face downward. While most Shantungs have a larger central lobe, in Fire Dragon® the leaf lobes are equal in size and fit inside a perfect circle.

Small, lemony, greenish-yellow flowers appear in late spring on 3-inch corymbs, followed by winged, purplish samara fruits that form a 90 degree angle.

Young bark on Fire Dragon® can have a purplish tone and eventually turns grayish brown, while older bark is two-toned brown, heavily fissured, and very attractive. Shantung maple branches are flexible but old wood is dense and very hard, much like an oak, and according to a Kansas State University study they were the least damaged/best performing in ice storms, and are similarly good for windy sites. 

Fire Dragon® Shantung Maple has a very efficient, non-aggressive root system that is reminiscent of a Japanese maple. Shantung is a preferred maple for under-planting in park and landscape settings because it is not shallow-rooted like some notorious maples, so the roots do not over-compete. In addition, the canopy provides open shade, perfect for an understory of rhododendrons, native azaleas and other ornamental shrubs, perennials and groundcovers. 

Acer truncatum is a very lovely medium-sized maple tree reaching up to 35 feet in height and spread. Growth habit is low-branching, round-headed, quite dense and uniform. It is a hardy, adaptable species, tolerant of heat and drought, with no serious pests. This tree is tougher than and just as beautiful as any maple growing “back east”. Hardy and heat tolerant, it grows on both acidic and alkaline soils. Shantung maples are in high demand in the lower Midwest and are gaining popularity throughout the upper-Midwest and upper-South to the east coast.

Fire Dragon® tolerates pollution and fits most urban landscapes. About the only thing it will not tolerate is poor drainage. With a vigorous growth rate, Fire Dragon® Shantung Maples grow 2 to 5 feet per year. This very lovely maple has application as a street or residential shade tree.
                
Statistics Chart for Fire Dragon® Shantung Maple,  Acer truncatum Fire Dragon®  Plant Patent #17367, by Keith Johansson, owner of Metro Maples who patented this cultivar.
Plant Category:
Shade tree, budded cultivar, patented
Mature Height:
Mid-sized, reaches 35 feet
Mature Spread:
 35 feet
Mature Form:
Round crown
Branching:
 Low branching  with graceful curves; wood is exceptionally strong and resists ice and wind
Growth Rate:
Vigorous, 2-5 feet per year
Sun Exposure:
Full sun (recommended)  to part shade
Soil Type:
Loam, Sand, Clay
Soil Moisture:
Well-drained soils; good with heat and drought; will not tolerate wet soils
Flower Color:
Lemony, greenish yellow corymbs of small flowers; excellent early nectar source for honey bees
Bloom Season:
 March - April
Foliage:
Spring: burnt orange to pink and rose-red, and then to bright red when growing vigorously in May.
Summer leaf color: a pleasing, sparkling green on thick, waxy leaves; lowered transpiration rates help trees manage the hot summers; new growth put on by this cultivar during the summer is typically a dark red throughout the season
Leaf drop is sudden and efficient; leaves compost quickly
Fall Color:
brilliant, true cardinal red; sometimes currant red with Chinese yellow margins; and occasionally reddish-orange after heavy rainfall
Fruit:
Purplish, 90 degree angle winged samaras or “helicopters”  
Bark:
 Attractive, two-toned, dark gray to brown, thick, fissured
Roots:
Regular root system, not a shallow-rooted maple; non-competing and excellent for under plantings
pH Level:
 5 – 8, very adaptable
Zones:
6– 9, wide range
Heredity:
U.S., Keith Johansson, owner of Metro Maples, Fort Worth, TX  

When performance counts, use Garden Debut® introductions 
#     #     #

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Merlot Redbud is Drought- and Heat-Tolerant with Wine-Colored Leaves



Raise a toast to this drought- and heat- tolerant redbud with Merlot-colored leaves. Merlot Redbud (PPAF) is the preferred vintage for those gardeners in hotter, drier zones (U.S.D.A Zones 6 – 9) looking for a small ornamental tree with dark foliage. A cross between Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' and Cercis canadensis var. texensis, Merlot Redbud is much more drought- and heat- tolerant than eastern redbud trees and has appealing shiny wine-red foliage that laugh at heat.

The glossy leaves of Merlot Redbud are dark wine-purple like the color of a fine Merlot wine and are smaller and more rounded, free of scorch well into fall. The reduced size and rounded shape (without a point) accommodates the stress of hot climates, while the shiny leaf surface slows transpiration or water loss of this hybrid redbud.  These strategies to ‘beat the heat’ are inherited from their texensis parentage, and thick, glossy Merlot Redbud leaves hold up well during the heat of Southern and Southwestern summers without browning margins.


At 12’ x 15’ Merlot is the perfect tree for small yards. Overall the small ornamental tree has as a semi-upright vase-shaped growth habit. The plant is tighter and denser than Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’.

Mature trees flower heavily with strong, bright magenta-pink flowers on bare branches. They are self-cleaning and have a low seed set. Thus the homeowner or landscaper enjoys a heavy bloom but the seed pods tend to drop early before ripening and turning brown, and don’t hang on the tree. These flowers are attractive to bees, butterflies and nectar-loving birds.

The name ‘Merlot’ means ‘young blackbird’ in French, after the dark maroon-black color of both the varietal grape from Burgundy and the leaf of this redbud, a ‘grand cru’ among Cercis cultivars.



Statistics Chart for Merlot Redbud (PPAF), Cercis canadensis var. texensis x Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'
Plant Category:
 Deciduous flowering tree
Mature Height:
 12 feet
Mature Spread:
 15 feet
Mature Form:
 Semi-upright vase, shaped habit. The perfect tree for small yards. 
Growth Rate:
Vigorous
Sun Exposure:
 Best grown in full sun
Heat Tolerance:
 Great tree for those gardeners in hotter zones looking for a darker foliage small flowering tree.
Soil Moisture:
 Well-drained soil, drought resistant tree due to texensis parentage
Soil Type:
 Loamy, Sandy, or Clay; wide range
Flower Color:
 Strong, bright pink flowers
Bloom Time:
 Flowers on bare branches in Early Spring
Seed Pods:
 Merlot is self-cleaning and has a low seed set. The homeowner or landscaper enjoys a heavy bloom but the seed pods tend to drop early before ripening and turning brown, and don’t hang on the tree.
Summer Color:
 Deciduous, small rounded glossy dark purple leaves, the color of  Merlot wine.
Fall Color:
 Red-Burgundy color holds in fall
pH Level:
 5.5 – 7.5
Zones:
 69  (-10 degrees F or 23 Degrees C), well suited for hot climates
Heredity:
U.S., Breeder Dr. Dennis Werner, through PlantHaven, Inc., CA on behalf of North Carolina State University
                                                           
When performance counts, use Garden Debut® introductions

Photo credit: Flowers by PittState.edu

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Unique Ruby Falls Redbud Combines Deep Color & Weeping Habit


The exciting landscape potential of this new cultivar is electrifying the nursery industry. 

Ruby Falls Redbud is exploding off the charts of woody plant desirability as an entirely new variety, displaying purple foliage on a small weeping form of this native understory tree.  A new and distinct cultivar, this attention-getting combo of features sets Ruby Falls apart from all other existing cultivars of redbud tree.

Ruby Falls, an F2 hybrid, inherited its weeping form from one parent plant: the weeping green 'Covey' redbud (aka Lavender Twist™), and its dark ruby-purple leaf color from another parent: 'Forest Pansy' redbud.  In combination these traits set Ruby Falls apart as a new specimen form.  

Weeping, pendulous, cascading Ruby Falls Redbud exhibits an excellent branching structure.  Zig-zaging branches form a cascading crown. The weeping tree reaches a moderate height of 4-6 feet and a spread 6-8 feet. 

Redbuds are true harbingers of spring. Ruby Falls blooms profusely in early spring when clusters of tiny hot pink rose-purple, pea-like flowers accentuate the bare, pendulous branches and mature trunks for 2-3 weeks (March-April) before the foliage emerges.  Flowers are attractive to pollinators and seed pods resembling snow peas appear in summer.

The rich, purple, heart-shaped leaves open bright ruby-purple in spring, then gradually mature to deep purple, and ultimately change to green as the season progresses. Fall color on this deciduous ornamental is yellow until leaf drop in early winter.  

Ruby Falls Redbud provides a spectacular pendulous waterfall of alluring color for garden and landscape and is perfectly suited to be a specimen or garden feature plant due to its eye-catching weeping form and large red foliage. Small gardens enjoy the elegance and small stature of Ruby Falls. The cultivar benefits from an exposure of part sun to shade and is easily grown in a range of well-drained soil types; do not overwater.  It is hardy in U.S.D.A. Zones 6 – 9.  Birds, butterflies and bees find Ruby Falls attractive and visit frequently.

For more information on Ruby Falls Redbud (PPAF) and other superior plant introductions brought to gardeners by Garden Debut®, visit GardenDebut.com

       
Statistics Chart for Ruby Falls Redbud (PPAF), F2 hybrid of Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’ (synonym Lavender Twist™) x Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'
Plant Category:
 Deciduous flowering tree
Mature Height:
 4-6 feet
Mature Spread:
 6-8 feet
Mature Form:
 Weeping, pendulous, cascading form. The perfect specimen tree for
  small yards.

Growth Rate:
Moderate
Sun Exposure:
 Best grown in part sun to shade
Heat Tolerance:
 Lovely choice for those gardeners and landscape designers looking for dark foliage on a small, weeping tree with added bonuses of flowering and native.
Soil Moisture:
 Well-drained soils, regular watering when establishing a new specimen
Soil Type:
 Loamy, Sandy, or Clay; wide range
Flower Color:
 Tiny, bright pink, rose-purple, pea-like flowers, profuse blooming
Bloom Time:
 Flowers on bare branches in early spring
Seed Pods:
 Flat pods resembling snow peas in summer
Summer Color:
Deciduous, heart-shaped  dark purple leaves, ultimately changing to green
Fall Color:
 Yellow color in autumn
pH Level:
 5.5 – 7.5
Zones:
 6
Heredity:
U.S., Breeder Dr. Dennis Werner, Plant Haven, Inc., CA on behalf of North Caroling State University
                                                           
When performance counts, use Garden Debut® introductions