CITYLINE® VENICE Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Venice Raven’ pp#10,928 )
Hydrangea Venice is a member of the Cityline® group of dwarf Hydrangeas developed in Germany by Franz-Xaver and Konrad Rampp of the Rampp Hydrangea nursery in Bavaria. While it is common in the U.S. floral market to use chemical dwarfing agents call Plant Growth Regulators (PGRs) on Hydrangea, their use in Europe is quite restricted. These restrictions were the motivation for the Rampp brothers to hybridize genetically dwarf cultivars of hydrangea. Venice is not just a dwarf hydrangea but a dwarf with large flowers. In late spring - early summer the blooms emerge a soft green with pink edges and as the blooms age the transform entirely to a rich pink. If you prefer blue flowers, this variety is easily changed to blue if you grow the plant on acid soils or if you add Aluminum sulfate to the soil in early spring (1T per gallon of water, repeated twice). The effect is quite unique because the large blooms cover the small plant creating a mass of color. This is a zone 5-6 plant that matures to about 2-3 feet tall. The blooms and stems are both thick and hold up to the heat of day and resist wilting while other hydrangea would be flopped over or wilting. While it is not a plant for most Midwestern gardens it is a superior selection that will perform well along both the East and West Coast and in the South.
Gary Handy of Handy Nursery in Boring, OR recently discovered and introduced a new breathtaking blue-leafed form of Fothergilla. The new plant is a branch sport of Mike Dirr's strong growing selection Fothergilla major ‘Mount Airy.’ Like all Fothergilla it is adorned with honey-scented, bottlebrush flowers in early spring before as it leafs out. But what sets this outstanding plant apart from the rest is its colorful dusty blue leaves. In the autumn the blue foliage transforms to shades of rich red, orange and yellow.
Some of you may remember a plant call Fothergilla gardenii 'Blue' mist and if any of you have experience growing it you know that it was a gardeners challenge to keep it alive let alone get it to grow larger. The only thing Blue Shadow has in common with this mail order marvel is its blue leaves. Blue shadow is a strong growing plant that anyone can grow so long as you give the plant some decent soil and even moisture. The species F. major is a larger plant with larger leaves. It matures to about 3-4' as opposed to F. gardenii which tops out around 2-3'. Partial shade is perhaps the best growing location for all fothergilla, although it will tolerate full sun if give adequate moisture. It is hardy from zones 4-9 (Understanding plant zones http://www.colorchoiceplants.com/zones.htm )
What I like best about this plant is that it represents the transformation of a species with two seasons of interest into a plant with season long interest. In the spring you are rewarded with beautiful white, bottlebush-like flowers, and then the blue leaves emerge and darken as summer progresses and in fall the orange and red hues of the autumn foliage give the plant yet another dimension.
While still hard to find at retail garden centers, you can obtain Blue Shadow from Rare Find nursery http://www.rarefindnursery.com/ and Wayside Gardens http://www.waysidegardens.com/ both offer this new beauty.
Pagoda Dogwood, Cornus alternafolia, is a native understory plant that can be grown as a shrub or a small tree. Golden Shadows® (C. alternifolia 'Wstackman' pp#11,287) is an exciting new variety discovered by Walt Stackman, a daylily breeder from Illinois. It has brightly variegated leaves that are reminiscent of a variegated Hosta. To add icing on the cake, the new growth is tinged with hues of red and pink. Just like the species, this dogwood has white lacy blooms in mid to late spring. My plant was in full bloom on May 31 here in Michigan.
Previously to the release of Golden Shadows, the only other selection of variegated Pagoda Dogwood was a variety named 'Argentea'. While highly prized by collectors for its silver variegated leaves, 'Argenea' had the reputation as a plant that grew smaller each year instead of larger.
Golden Shadows is a robust plant and can be easily grown if planted in the proper location. Remember this is an understory species, so it adapted to growing in shady locations under larger trees. To get the most out of Golden Shadows plant it in a shady location, or better yet, in a location with filtered sun. With proper site selection you will be rewarded with strong growth and bright foliage.
This beauty has only been on the market for about two years, so I doubt that your local garden center sell it, however, it can be purchased via the internet or mail order from both Wayside Gardens and Songsparrow Farms. Google these nurseries to locate their websites.
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Black Lace™ (Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’ pp# 15,575)
The appeal of Black Lace is its unique black leaf color that sets it apart from all other plants. Plants with black leaves are few and far between, especially for the perennial garden. In the array of shrubs it is nearly non-existent. Not only does it portray this characteristic, but many others. Its fine texture and lacy look is comparable to that of a Japanese Maple. For the novice gardener, it would be easy to get them confused. One way that it can be distinguished is the fact that Black Lace has beautiful pink blooms in early Spring & Summer. Then in the Fall it produces dark black berries that can be used for making wine and jam or for attracting wildlife. It is also multifunctional as a stand alone accent plant, mixed in a perennial and annual border, container gardening or as a hedge. It is exceptionally hardy and will do well from Central Minnesota to North Carolina and west to California (Zones 4 to 7).
For More New plants visit the ColorChoice Website