Changing the Way We Garden

Changing the Way We Garden
Every once in a while, a new plant comes along and changes the way we garden. Case in point, Weigela florida (pronounced: Why-gel-ah). New introductions are forcing landscapers and gardeners to reassess its value and its how its used.

Long considered an overly large, old fashioned shrub of one dimension, newly introduced cultivars have extended its season of color and opened up new landscape applications.

The first major shift came about eight years ago when Herman Geers developed and introduced Wine & Roses Weigela, Weigela florida ‘Alexandra’ pp#10,772. Wine & Roses Weigela, with its dark burgundy foliage, proved that Weigela had ornamental value beyond its two to three week spring bloom time. While Geers developed the plant as an ornamental cut branch for the European cut flower market, it also made a big impact on the North American garden. It sparked a resurgence in the popularity or Weigela, as people began to use it in ways never considered before. Most radically, perennial gardeners began to realize that this plant was right at home in the perennial garden; a perfect complement to Rudbeckia, Perovskia, Echinops and a host of other pink, blue or silver herbaceous plants. Additionally, it found advocates that used the plant in mixed decorative containers and yes, of course, in the cut flower garden. No one ever dreamed of using Weigela ‘Red Prince’ or any of the older cultivars in such untraditional ways.
The next paradigm shift came about six years ago with the introduction of Midnight Wine Weigela, Weigela florida ‘Elvera’ pp#12,217, another Herman Geers development with dark burgundy leaves. At a mature size of 12 to 18 inches, as opposed to the typical 5 to 8' height of the species, this Weigela opened up even more garden applications. Before this plant, no one their right mind would have considered using Weigela as a bedding plant, edging plant or as a ground cover, but that is what’s happening today. In the spring of 2006, My Monet Weigela, Weigela florida ‘Verweig’ pp#16,824, joins Midnight Wine in this new class of miniature cultivars. This much anticipated gem sports brightly colored, tricolor leaves of cream, green and pink. Each of these minis can be used in place of such as coleus, silver mound Artemisia, creeping phlox, candy tuft and so on. You get the idea. A shrub that was recently seen only as a farmhouse relic is now perfectly at home in an annual display, perennial bed, a decorative patio container or for that matter a window box.

Plants like this change everything, and they keep gardening fun. As a plant hunter, I am always thinking about new directions in plant breeding and how they will change the way we garden. I am always on the hunt for plants that make gardening more rewarding or solve a problem. As residential lots get smaller and smaller, and as time becomes more precious, people will have less room in their garden for large, short season shrubs that require a lot of care.

New plants, particularly new flowering shrubs, are changing the way we garden.

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