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, August 31, 2012

Foliage Fun: Advantage of Using Colorful Foliage in the Landscape

Snow-'N-Summer Asiatic Jasmine

Color is one of the most compelling of plant attributes and attracts attention in any landscape. Traditionally, color in gardens is supplied by flowers. With bedding plants this color is reasonably reliable, but when perennial flowers are used, they have distinct and limited bloom-periods.  The best way to prolong landscape color indefinitely is through the use of plants with colorful foliage.

·         Colored foliage ranges from white to near-black burgundy, with all the hues in between.
·         Colored leaves often thrive in more shade that plants that rely on flowers, extending the range and bringing color options into darker landscape areas.
·         Variegated foliage is another version of landscape color and incredible patterns and combinations attract garden interest.   

Two of the most commonly used colored-leaf foliage plants spring to mind:  
Coleus, botanically known as Solenostemon, is a tender member of the mint family with square stems, 2-lipped flowers and an incredible assortment of leaf colors. Varieties are available both for sun (Solar and Sunlover Series) or shade (Ducksfoot Series or Independent). Color combinations vary radically and small lavender flower spikes attract pollinators.

Caladium or Caladium bicolor grow from a tuber or enlarged underground stem and produce medium-sized (6 to 24 inches),  heart-shaped leaves of white, pink or red with myriad variegation. Tropical caladiums are useful in shade and are grown by many gardeners for this distinct foliage. Selections are predominantly red, pink or white. Native to South America, caladiums will not survive cold winters that experience heavy frost.

Perennials with colored foliage are also indispensible
Handsome Hosta leaves range in color from blue as in glaucous ‘Blue Angel’ to yellow ‘Sum and Substance’ with lots of variegated patterns such as ‘Patriot’ and sizes from miniature to the extra-huge ‘Big Mama.’ Hostas thrive from Montreal to Miami and liven up shady gardens.

Varieties of Heuchera or Coral Bells have been bred to produce a rainbow of colors from nearly black ‘Obsidian’ to bright pink ‘Georgia Peach.’ Heuchera are wonderful grouped in beds or added to container plantings.

Snow-N-Summer fills pot
My favorite Snow-N-Summer(R) Asiatic Jasmine is the newest of the colored foliage plants and has incredible pink-n-white new growth. A bed of this small groundcover looks like a pink and white flower bed (without any flowers!). It has a moderate growth rate and a compact spreading- to- mounding growth habit that can be pruned or sheared to control height and spread. Shearing also promotes new growth emphasizing the beautiful pink and white coloration. Pictured, right, in branded Garden Debut(R) pot. 

For more ideas on using colorful foliage to light up the landscape, visit Garden Debut(R).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Variegated Foliage Essential for Long-Term Landscape Color

Color in the Landscape
LS Color draws attention
Human response to color in flower, fruit or leaf is deep and emotional. Color is therefore one of the most compelling plant characteristics used to create interest in the landscape. While landscapers use many design tools such as texture, form, repetition and symmetry as well as hardscaping to create dynamic landscapes, a colorful container, a brilliant annual bed or an appealing bright rosebush loaded with flowers automatically draws attention to that particular spot. This means of creating interest is useful in landscape design to direct visitors to the leasing office or to indicate the way to the pool or recreational area. Heads turn as people are drawn to color.
Colorful plants distinguish themselves from the background mass of greenery in most landscapes, emerging to take front stage. However, vibrant flower color in plants is often short-lived or fleeting, for example, as shrubs bloom during a brief period of the year and then revert to green the rest of the time. In addition, fewer colorful flowers bloom in the shade (about 80% in sun but only 20% in shade) and designers must turn to other sources of plant color.
Variegated Foliage
Twist of Lime(TM) Abelia 
When looking to enliven the myriad shades of garden green, colorful variegated foliage is the method of choice.  One of the finest variegated shrubs for sun or shade, Twist of Lime ™ Abelia is flowering shrub with interest 12 months a year and attractive white flowers/sepals about 6 months! 
Twist of Lime™ Abelia by Garden Debut(R) has many landscape uses, as a specimen or grouped in shrub borders or foundations. It is also effective when massed as a shrubby groundcover, particularly on banks where plants can also provide erosion control, This moderate grower 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™ Abelia is also a creative choice for permanent containers on terraces or balconies. 
What is your favorite variegated landscape mainstay? 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

DYK? Dead-heading Shrubs Makes Them Rebloom!

by Geri Laufer

Basil flowers
The main “goal” of any plant is to flower, set seed in order to reproduce and then die. Dead-heading is the process of picking off dead flower heads so that the plant in question will keep blooming by developing more flower buds in its continued attempts to set seed.

Annuals and Horticultural Practice
Annual flowers go through this process in one year. In order to prevent the early demise of an annual color bed and keep plantings blooming at full strength throughout the season, gardeners and landscapers routinely dead-head the plantings. This causes the flowers to continue flowering  and the herbs producing more leaves for harvest. Bedded-out marigolds or pansies in a flower bed, or an herb bed planted with annual basil come to mind.

Although perennials grow and increase in the garden for several years, they too can be profitably dead-headed. For example, purple coneflower and black-eyed Susans regularly bloom twice a season if the old flower heads are removed immediately after their first flowering.

Dead Headed Seed Pods
Woody Ornamental Shrubs
Typically, dead-heading is applied to herbaceous plants and not to woody ornamentals. In the case of woodies, most people never think of applying this horticultural practice to the flowering shrubs in their gardens or landscapes.

Seed Pods Blue Angel Althea
Blue Angel Althea
One reliable shrub that will continue to flower if the old seed capsules are removed is Blue Angel Althea from Garden Debut®. This shrub flowers prolifically in late summer through early fall, and is covered with blue trumpets. But if the seed capsules (that resemble tiny green acorn-squash) removed before they begin to ripen, Blue Angel will continue to flower much later than normal, adding its color and joy to the landscape.  

Enjoy the delightful color of Blue Angel Altheas twice as long by dead-heading old flowers and young seed pods.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Columnar Urban® Apples Part of Edible landscaping

Tullie Smith House at AHC
Edible Landscaping
Throughout history, the most practical form of landscape “design” placed food-producing plants closest to the home, enclosed by fences to protect them from animals and passers-by.  One example, the Tullie-Smith House on the grounds of the Atlanta History Center, depicts a family farm of the 1840s complete with a sharp picket fence surrounding the flowers and fruit planted near the house.

Then gardens and grounds became more sophisticated, and food producing trees and shrubs were separated from foundation plantings and relegated to the orchard. Ornamental landscaping for urban dwellers came to mean plants with low maintenance, with no pesky fruit or seeds to pick or rake. Beauty, privacy screening, noise reduction, energy efficiency and shade became the main requirements for landscaping around the home. 

Today, with the increased interest in locally-grown produce and flowers, traditional fruits like apple and peach trees, pomegranate shrubs and grape vines are once again being included in borders, hedges, specimen plantings and arbors. Landscape architects are adding edible landscape plants to their designs.

Columnar Urban(R) Apples
Columnar apple trees like Urban® Apples by Garden Debut® are perfect to slip into even the smallest spaces while providing full-sized fruit. Growing these apple trees in large containers is yet another option. They stand stiffly upright, taking no more than a couple of feet square, and provide apple blossoms in spring and tasty apples in fall. Choose two for good pollination. 

Good Better Best! Apple Pie Tips for Urban® Apples

To enhance the delightful crisp flavor or Urban® Apples, add a cup of shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese and a little extra salt when making your favorite 2-crust pie dough.

Add a teaspoon cinnamon and a teaspoon of freshly-grated nutmeg to your favorite pie filling. Mound the apples in the center of the pie shell then top with the second cheese crust. 

What makes your apple pie special?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sterile Barberry is Non-Invasive

Orange Rocket Barberry PP18411:  Beautiful, Sterile, Non-Invasive Award-Winner -- by Geri Laufer

In terms of invasive exotics, the Hawaiian Islands are a good case study.
DYK? Of plants growing in Hawaii, 75% are introduced plant species, while only 25% are native plants that grew there before the entrance of man on the scene. Many of these introductions seem beneficial, like pineapple or oleander. Others like Chinese banyan, climbing fern or privet are bad actors that crowd out the natural flora.  

Exotic plants, also called non-native or alien species, are those transported outside their range by human activity, whether intentional or not. According to Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, humans are “homogenizing” the world’s diverse flora at an unprecedented rate. To paraphrase their report, ‘prior to human arrival the rate of establishment of new species was one every 35,000 years or so, while now it is 20-30 new species per year or approximately a million-fold increase. ‘ Plants that significantly disrupt the ecosystem are designated ‘invasive’.

Orange Rocket Barberry
Back on the mainland, the Plant ConservationAlliance’s Invasive Plant Working Group notes that twenty states, mainly in the northeast and the District of Columbia, have indicated that Japanese Barberry, Berberis japonica, is an ecological threat that spreads by seed with 90% germination rates, and forms dense stands in the wild, displacing native plants and reducing wildlife forage and habitat.

Best Shrub Far West Show
CAUTION: Don’t confuse sterile Orange Rocket Barberry PP18411 with its renegade cousins! 

Orange Rocket Barberry PP18411 lacks flowers and has never been observed to set seed. It is not invasive. This well-behaved new hybrid plant introduction, a Berberis thunbergeri selection, originated in the Czech Republic and earned the Award of Best Shrub in the 2010 New Varieties Showcase at the Oregon Association of Nurserymen’s Far West Show. So it is the perfect barberry for garden situations, along with its yellow twin: Golden Rocket Barberry PP18626.

Garden Debut® is extremely careful in the plants included in the lineup of new introductions. You can count on their Great New Plants with confidence.

top photo courtesy National Park Service Vital Sign Monitoring Established
Invasive Plant Species.