My Top 10 Must Have Annuals

When I worked in public garden curation, I used to grow and use a lot of annuals. Much has changed since then. Many annuals are now clonal, that is they are now grown from cuttings instead of from seed. At first glace this seems crazy because seeds are easy and cheap, but these new cutting grown selections grow better and flower longer and harder. Gardeners may pay a bit more up front but these plants are a much better value. You need fewer plants to cover the same amount of ground and the display starts earlier and goes longer. These new plants fill in faster and require less care. In the old days we would plant spring annuals, replace them with summer annuals and then dead-head or replace them with mums to keep the display looking good. Not any more; this new breed of annual has changed all that.

Still there are some plants that will always be grown from seed like the castor bean plant or fragrant tobacco. These plants grow plenty fast as it is. 

When it comes to annuals, I'm a fan of big and bold. I am also a fan of fragrance. But above all I am a fan of plants that perform in the garden. Summer is too short here in Michigan to plant wimpy annuals that take 4 months to mature. I want plants that offer quick color and that fill in fast to shade out the weeds. Because I hate weeding. 

Here are my top 10 favorites. What are your favorite annuals?    

10. Colorblaze® 'Sedona' Coleus is a favorite of mine because the color is
so warm and rich. It is a strong grower that is great for
adding blocks of color to shade or partial shade areas in your yard.
The Colorblase series of coleus do not go to flower and seed as quickly.

9. Graceful Grasses® Vertigo® Pennisetum boasts big bold leaves.
This is a monster plant that gives you color, contrast and texture in
the garden. It also gives you movement. I adore big annuals.  

8. Kale 'Kaleidoscope' a wonderful cool season annual with a ruffled margin.
The foliage color changes and intensifies as the temperatures drop in autumn.
Ornamental Kales and Cabbages are great in mixed containers. 

7. Nicotiana sylvestris the Fragrant Tobacco is a bold plant with incredible fragrance.
It is grown from seed but matures quickly. I like to plant it in groups of 5 or more
to give people a real good dose of sweet fragrance as they pass by. 

 6. Ricinus communis 'Carmencita' - Castor Bean plant is big bold plant
and some cultivars have attractive
 red leaves like this one.
One plant can reach 5-6' or more in one season.  

5. Supertunia® Raspberry Blast is a super strong grower with incredible flower power. 
Like other Supertunias it is a super grower and a great value. You can get cheaper
petunias but they wont grow and flower like this series of plants.

4. I love Superbells® Cherry Star Calibrachoa because it is such a cheerful color. 
It boasts a unique blend of bright red with a yellow lines.

3. Euphorbia Diamond Frost® looks great every day all summer long. A very strong 
grower that gives great garden value. It is great in containers, as seen here,
 or in the garden. Just give it plenty of room to grow.  

2. The fragrant Snow Princess® Lobularia blooms all summer long
and it saves you money because you need fewer plants
compared to traditional sweet alyssum which is seen on the right.
Traditional alyssum stops flowering in summer but this plant just keeps going. 

1. This is my number one favorite annual and a must have in every garden.
 Vista Bubblegum is an incredible plant that flowers non-stop
and looks good every day all season long. There are only two plants in each of
these window boxes but you could have achieved the same resultls with one plant. That's how strong this plant grows. This annual amazes me!  

See You in Tulsa, Oklahoma

I am pleased to announce I will be in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday, October 13 to speak at a conference entitled "Superior Plants for Superior Gardens."  The conference is sponsored by the Ozark Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society and is a fundraiser to support the development of the Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden.

Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden 

I'm excited to be speaking along side some heavy hitting plant geeks such as Shane Berry, Len Miller and and Todd Lasseigne. Shane Berry will be talking about new and interesting Redbud (Cercis) cultivars. There has been some real interesting breeding developments with Redbud as you saw in my last post. 

Dr. Miller is the past president of the American Rhododendron Society and founder of Lendonwood Gardens and Elk Ridge Garden. He will give insight into which Rhododendrons are tough enough to thrive in Oklahoma. There have been some incredible breeding breakthroughs in breeding for disease resistance and heat tolerance in this genera so I am excited to learn more from Leonard.  

Todd Lasseigne, the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden, is the plant geek's plant geek. Todd will fill us in on the development of the Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden and then lead us on a tour of the grounds.  Seeing Todd will be a highlight for me and many other plant geeks.

Scheduled Speakers include:

9:00 a.m. “Developing the Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden” - Dr. Todd Lasseigne

9:15 a.m. "Rhododendrons in Oklahoma" - Dr. Leonard Miller

9:45 a.m. "Plant Hunting for Superior Plants" - Tim Wood

10:30 a.m. - Break

10:45 a.m. "Redbud Cultivars" - Shane Berry

- Lunch on your own -

1:30 p.m. Tour at Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden - Dr. Todd Lasseigne      

Plant sale: The Ozark Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society will have a limited number of rhododendrons for sale during the conference.

Location: Tulsa Community College - Northeast Campus: 3727 East Apache Street, Tulsa.

Hope to see you there!


New Plant pics: Holland 2012

Here is a quick pictorial of some of the new plants that I ran across on my last trip to the Netherlands. We saw some pretty cool plants. What do you like? 

Fairy Dance Abelia a dwarf with lots of flowers

 Flutterby Pink Buddleia - A new Butterfly Bush

Ivory Buzz Buddleia

Lo & Behold Lilac Chip Buddleia wins the best plant award

Denny Werner's Lo & Behold Ice Chip also won an award

Cercis Ruby Falls, a Denny Werner plant, wins a medal 

Calluna vulgaris (heather) Notre Dame

Blue Bunny - Carex laxiculmis 'Hobb'  - An American variety from Robert Head

Clematis Princess Kate

Clematis Fond Memories

Cornus kousa 'Summer Gold'

Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Frosted Flame'

A trio of colorful Hebes

Hydrangea a. petiolaris 'Silver Lining'

Heuchera 'Circus'

Flair and Flavours Hydrangea is called Tuff Stuff in North America

The flower color can be changed to purple-blue with Aluminum Sulfate

Tuff Stuff Hydrangea wins a Gold Medal

Incrediball Hydrangea and Jane's Hand on a truck

Hypericum nodorum Magical Triumph 

Mr. H.J.M. Kuijf with his new variety Happy Face Pink Paradise Potentilla 

Happy Face Pink Paradise Potentilla 

New in Flowering Shrubs

It's that time of year. The Spring Meadow (wholesale) catalog is hot off the press and in the mail.  For those of you not in the nursery business, growers across the U.S. and Canada look to Spring Meadow Nursery for small starter plants (liners) which they grow on to larger sizes. 

A tray or flat of shrub liners. We sell these starter plants to growers

Spring Meadow also specializes in new and improved shrub varieties. We breed new shrubs and we work with plant breeders from around the world. The very best of these plants are introduced under the Proven Winners brand which can be found at better garden centers. 

Look for the distinctive white container

To help you get a jump on what's new, I've included a presentation of the new Proven Winners flowering shrubs that will be available to wholesale growers next spring. Because we sell small, starter plants, it will take a year or two before they get to local retail garden centers.  How soon  it takes to get there depends upon how fast a variety grows and how it is received by growers, retailers and you.    

For a plant to become a Proven Winner selection, we spend a lot of time testing and trialing to identify the very best plants. From breeder to garden center, it typically takes 8-10 years for a new plant to get to market. It's a long process and very few plants make the cut. 

These are trialing fields where we test and evaluate potential new shrubs

First and foremost, we look for plants that perform in the garden. It is important to us that gardeners have success with our plants.  In addition to garden performance, there are other other qualities we look for in a shrub. We look for plants that provide more seasons of color. You'll notice that many of these shrubs have colorful or attractive foliage, as well as pretty flowers. Others offer more color with extended or repeat blooming. You see, shrubs can be as colorful as perennials. Actually shrubs are perennials, they just happen to have woody stems.  

Gardeners want plants that are easy to care for or that require less maintenance. That's why we look for and select dwarf or compact varieties. Compact shrubs require less pruning and care, which in turn makes your life easier. More color with less work is a great combination in a plant!

This dwarf butterfly bush requires less care than the larger ones

We also feel that of all products, plants should be ecologically friendly. For example, when testing new roses we never spray them. This helps us to identify those varieties that are resistant to blackspot and other diseases. We believe that landscape roses should be healthy and happy. The days of spraying roses is long gone. 

We've also developed seedless selections of species that might otherwise be invasive. This year we'll introduce three new butterfly bush hybrids that are seedless and noninvasive.  We believe that gardening is the best way to be green. 

Lo & Behold Butterfly Bushes are Non-Invasive

Enjoy the presentation. Please feel free to give me your comments and opinions. Your feedback is real important to me and to the whole process.  If you're a gardener, let your local garden center know what you like or want.  If you are a retailer, let your grower know what you like to buy. And if you're a grower, let me know what you think. We all have opinions and social media has given us all a voice. 

Note: After starting the presentation, you can make it larger by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of the video box.


The Czech Republic: A Plant Hunter Pictorial

Traveling to the Czech Republic to look for plants has been on my radar for a number of years.  It has a temperate continental climate not all that different from that of the Mid-West United States. In addition they have a long history and appreciation for ornamental gardening.  Yet every time I had planned a trip in the past, I had to cancel it. This summer it finally happened, and here is a visual summary of our trip.

Our first stop was Prague, the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic.  Prague is a beautiful mid-evil town and as it turns out the home of an old college friend. So after a tour of the famous Charles Bridge we met my friend in the town center for a cold Pils beer. 

Beer is another reason to get to the Czech Republic. As many of you well know I appreciate a good brew, so traveling to Bohemia, the home of the Pilsner, is like traveling to Mecca only better.      

It took me a bit of time and effort, but I did it. I found the best beer in Bohemia. This unfiltered, unpasteurized Gambrinus was mighty tasty. I highly recommend it to anyone that does not appreciate the high fructose corn syrup beverages so cleverly marketed as beer State-side.

As far as finding new plants, we found a few. The Czech Republic is well known for it's conifer collectors and conifer nurseries and we visited quite a few. 

This particular grower was well known for sowing and growing witches broom seed, so just about every plant in his garden was a unique individual.    

The Czech Republic is a beautiful and picturesque country and the people are very friendly. After one of our nursery visits our host took us to a scared monastery a top this small mountain. My understanding is that Pilgrims climb the mountain to better appreciate the suffering of Christ. We took a van.

It's also my upstanding that the Czech people are allowed to ferment and distill a certain amount of plum brandy. And while I can attest that it's very strong, I was told it keeps you very healthy. The man that shared this bottle with us told us his mom drank it every day and lived to the ripe old age of 52. (Just kidding) She lived a very happy life to 100. 

As I said before everyone was so friendly. Everyone we met shared their plum wine and wished us a long and healthy life. 

There also appears to be a strong interest in rock gardening in the Czech Republic. We were fortunate enough to visit several beautiful, hillside rock gardens. One of the nurseries we visited  hybridizes and selects new rock garden plants like this beautiful Lewisia seen here.

Believe it or not we drank more than beer and plum brandy in the Czech Republic. One of our hosts made this delicious elder flower lime water. It was wonderfully refreshing.   

The food was also delicious. One of my favorites was the garlic soup. Yum!  

One thing that caught my eye while traveling was common use of Parthenocissus quinquefolia, our native American Virginia-creeper. It is a real easy way to create a green wall (or a red wall)  without any complicated infrastructure.   

The invention of the GPS has made our trips so much easier than they were just a few years ago. I highly recommend one that pronounces the street names. Notice the name of the street we're on and note that Dale seems to be veering off the road a bit. He must be passing someone.  

As for my trip (and for this blog post), all good things must come to an end. We had a wonderful trip to the Czech Republic. I am sorry (not really) if you were expecting me to write more about plants. But if you had taken the time to read my bio you would have learned that this blog is about plants, people, the places I visit and the food and drink I discover along the way. Thanks for coming along.