I can't bring everything home

Most people label me as a shrub guy because I work for a shrub nursery. But I consider myself a Plantsman. I appreciate all plants; shrubs, perennials, annuals, biennials, vines, ground covers, native and exotic. I even have an appreciation for weeds. I'm a plant nut and if I had my way I would bring back just about everything I find on my plant hunting trips. But not every plant I find is right for our nursery, thus the best I can do is snap some pictures and grow them on in my photo library and share them on my blog. Here are a few plants that I would take home to my garden if I could. I'm not going to write about each plant, however if you click on the name you will find a link that gives you more detail.  

Snow Day Surprise - Pearlbush Reinvented

I was just walking in our test garden and was lucky enough see Snow Day Surprise Exochorda (Pearlbush) in bloom. Surprisingly, Pearlbush is not a well-known shrub. It is hardy, heat tolerant and easy to grow. It has showy, white, pearl-like buds in the spring that give it its name. An older cultivar, Exochorda x macrantha "The Bride" caused issues for many growers due to propagation difficulties and the tendency for young plants flop- especially in a container at retail.The plant is quite elegant in the garden once mature, but as a young plant on the nursery it is difficult to train into a salable plant. Enter Herman Geers, the plant Dutch breeder that developed Wine & Roses Weigela.

Herman, like other growers, was tired of trying to grow "The Bride", so he set out to develop a better Pearl Bush. Due to the smaller size of European gardens, he set out to create a smaller, more compact plant that could look good at a young age and was easy to propagate. In 1994 Herman crossed "The Bride" with Exochorda racemosa, an upright species with large flowers. For the next 10 years he evaluated his seedlings culling out all but the best-looking plants. He conducted propagation trials on his best plants and narrowed the field down to 5 with the best rooting percentages. From breeding to evaluation, the entire process took sixteen years, and out of the five best plants, he ultimately selected Snow Day Surprise. 

Snow Day Surprise starts flowering in early April or May depending upon where you live. At first the plant is covered with hundreds of pure white pearls - the buds - which last for about 3-4 weeks. The pearls then open up into large, pure white flowers which can last another 2-4 weeks. It is hardy from zone 4 to 8. The habit is more upright than "The Bride", but matures into a compact mounded plant around 3-4 feet tall and around 4 feet wide. Like Quince, (Chaenomeles), it makes a nice splash in the spring garden.

We started selling liners (young plants) this spring, so you can expect to see plants hit the retail market over the next year or so.

--- Side Note ---

People have been emailing me that their Plant Hunter emails have looked a bit funky as of late, with the text running over the pictures. I had switched to a new version of Blogger called "Blogger in Draft," as it was suppose to work better with videos. I have since changed back to the old Blogger - so I trust that this post arrives in good order. I apologize for any previous posts that were of poor quality and I hope that I have taken care of the issue. If not, please let me  know. As always - I appreciate your comments, and your continued interest in reading The Plant Hunter.

Double Take Quince - NC State Does it Again

Europe use to be the the hot bed of shrub breeding, but not anymore. Sorry guys - but it's been relocated to Mills River in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Tom Ranney and his crew at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, Darren Touchell, Tom Eaker, Joel Mowrey, Nathan Lynch, Jeremy Smith and Kevin Parrusfor are a well oiled breeding machine that continues to develop one great new plant after another.

This is the team that broke the color barrier with the introduction of the first ever pink flowered Annabelle Hydrangea - Invincibelle 'Spirit'.

Now they've developed a series of quince (Chaenomeles) that look a lot like Camellias, but much hardier, called the Double Take Series.

Double Take 'Orange Storm'

Double Take 'Pink Storm'

Double Take 'Scarlet Storm

As you can see from the images the flowers are very large and have lots of petals. The color range is blessed with deep hues of scarlet, pink and orange. To make life even better they're thornless! While quince is an old fashioned shrub that is not as popular as it once was, I suspect these plants are going to reinvent this old time favorite, and make quince popular once again.

I love quince as it is a nice change from the typical spring flower color we get from Forsythia. The colors are rich and warm you up on a cool spring day and get you pumped about being out in your garden. These plants make a very colorful hedge. I think quince is at its best trained up a wall to show off its flowers at eye level. It's also a great cut flower and makes a very elegant show in a vase. These are very new plants, just like a lot of plants you will see on my blog, so they're not generally available at retail. There are a few mail order nurseries that have them this year, but you can expect to see them work their way into better garden centers over the next few years.

We have been trying to get them approved for Canada, but the at this time we have not had any luck with the Canadian government. Hopefully this will change soon.

What do you think?